REVIEW: Sinister (2012)

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Sinister Face PosterWith the perfect mix of logic and the unknown, Sinister is an intelligent, chilling supernatural thriller. Complimented by superb photography, intense performances and a soundtrack that disorients you like you’ve been dragged into a frightening sonic wave; you’re immersed into a man’s obsession to uncover the truth, no matter the personal toll.

When a famous crime author moves his family into home of an infamous grizzly murder to inspire his next bestseller he stumbles upon some ‘Super 8′ home movies that document the crime and a series of murders dating back to the 1960s. But the question is: who is behind the lens?

Co-writer/director Scott Derrickson (The Exorcism of Emily Rose) and co-writer C. Robert Cargill (Former Aint it Cool Film writer and geek made good) create a believable space and dynamic for this nomadic family pack, unfortunately, increasingly drawn to true crime like vultures to a fresh kill. The protagonist Ellison Oswalt (Ethan Hawke) is a fascinating character. The weathered writer that once embodied the pursuit of justice is now desperate to recapture the former lightning of his first success. The opening scene of the film is the Super 8 footage of the last occupants’ brutal demise, and when the family arrives you can see the evidence of how ‘fresh’ the crime really is. Oswalt is now not so much fuelled by truth, but haunted by his idealistic former self. Derrickson illustrates his immersion into these murders with a meticulous obsession. Derrickson and Cargill apply logic to Oswalt’s train of thought and a relatable paranoia to his investigation that blur the lines between a definitive supernatural disturbance and obsession. However, once the brutality of the gruesome footage reveals the tangible ghoul connecting the crimes, Derrickson uses practical effects to bring him to life.

Hawke is transcendent as Ellis, essentially carrying the film, while the supporting cast (notably his wife Tracey – Juliet Rylance and Deputy “So and So” James Ransome) orbit around his investigative struggle. He’s a horror protagonist who is also suffering from an existential and ideological (coming to grips with the supernatural realm) crisis – making the casting of Hawke a masterstroke.

The naturalistic photography from Chris Norr uses the creepy house and isolation to full effect. The slivers of light emanating from Oswalt’s office around this often pitch black house have you visually grasping for clues and hints to the external tormenter. Chris Young’s wall of sound score manipulates you with organic choral Middle Eastern sounds fused with electronica and whispers that left this reviewer in a cold sweat.

Sinister is a subtle, poetic inquisition into the hypnotic power of horrific images … oh and it’s frightening entertainment at its best.

Blake Howard - follow Blake on Twitter here: @blakeisbatman and listen to the audio review on That Movie Show 2UE here or on top-rating film podcast Pod Save Our Screen, available now on iTunes.