Movie Review: “Sinister” – Some Sinister Tricks Under the Surface

Written by Spencer Sterritt October 18, 2012


I am not one for horror movies. I never have been. But the dialogue free red band trailer for “Sinister” (embedded below) scared the Hell out of me and intrigued me to no end, so I claimed it for review. Bad idea. Only twenty minutes into the movie I turned to my girlfriend and asked “I can still review it if my eyes are closed the whole time, right?” I bit the bullet and kept my eyes open (most of the time), and I can confirm that, though it might not stick with you for very long, “Sinister” will fuck you up when you watch it.

Maybe You’ve Heard This Before

“Sinister” hails from the producers of “Insidious” and “Paranormal Activity,” and stems from the mind of the esteemed film critic C. Robert Cargill. They’ve concocted a script that seems just like a Stephen King tale and it’s one you’ve definitely heard before. Failing true crime writer Ellison (Ethan Hawke) moves his family into the home of a multiple homicide and missing girl case (without telling his family). He’s there to write about the murder and hopefully solve it. As they unpack he finds a box of old home movies from various years with the most grisly subject matter. After he plays the first one things start to go bump in the night and his house starts to be the kind of house where things jumps out at you.


When you see him, you’re screwed

There’s not a whole hell of a lot that’s wrong with “Sinister,” so I’ll lay it’s flaws out first. It’s chief problem is that no matter how hard it tries to freshen up cliches, they are still cliches. It succeeds a lot of the time in livening things up with dead people running around, but the film certainly falls back on using jump scares a few too many times. A lot of the time you know they are coming too. Whenever you see a long take of something static, to the point where nothing is happening for more than ten seconds, you know something is going to pop out at you. It’s still spooky, but for a film that’s so creepy everywhere else, it seems cheap.

“Sinister” falls prey to a few other traps, such as Ellison not acting completely rational when it fits the story. He keeps on doggedly investigating the creepy tapes and the strange thing in the background called ‘Mr.Boogie,’ even when it’s very clearly going to be bad news.

The Most Sinister of Intentions

Underneath the jump scares though, there’s a damn confident movie that knows how to scare the shit out of you. Even without spooky faces popping out at you the film would still be one of the most disconcerting things I’ve seen all year. The home movies are terrifying, especially one featuring a lawn mower, and even when the one about a family being hanged is shown over and over it never loses it’s potency.


You’ll look this scared for almost the whole time. I didn’t know it was possible for someone to hold their breath for so long.

The soundtrack is horrific, comprised of menacing tones and the most off-kilter rhythms. It’s most effective in the quiet scenes as it keeps you constantly searching the empty space for something that moves. It’s a tried and true technique, but the movie knows how to scare you and manages to keep the tension escalating for the whole (rather long) running time.

Another thing the movie does well is get the small details about family life right. It’s nothing major, but all of the familial arguments are surprisingly realistic, especially one big blow out between Ellison and his wife. I was actually shocked at how good it was. There are some excellent doses of humor as well, courtesy of a rather green police deputy that Ellison kinda-sorta befriends. The laughs are doled out at just the right time to keep the audiences heart from exploding, and then everything gets crazy again. I hate how good “Sinister” is at scaring the shit out of me.

It’s Really Good, Just Save Yourself Some Terror And Don’t See It

All in all, “Sinister” is terrifying. When even the jump scares you know are coming manage to make you scream, the movie is doing something very right. The setup could use some tweaking and the film can’t quite revive enough cliches to make them fresh, but when you’re watching it you can’t help but squeeze the life out of someone’s hand and scream bloody murder.

My Rating: 7.5/10


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About Spencer Sterritt

Spencer Sterritt

Spencer Sterritt: former Editor-In-Chief for We Eat Films, future President of the Men With Beards Club, and hopefully candidate for ruler of the world.

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