Ten years ago, true crime writer Ellison Oswald (Ethan Hawke) made his reputation with his best-selling book Kentucky Blood, based on the account of a notorious murder. Now, desperate to replicate the success of his first book, he moves his family into a new home in Pennsylvania, the scene of his most recent story and the setting of an unsolved, gruesome murder. The discovery of a batch of disturbing home movies on 8mm film in the attic offers Ellison shocking proof to the crime he is investigating. The same unidentified figure appears in each film, and as he uncovers the terrifying truth, Ellison loses his grip on reality, and possibly his life.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Although I usually find the horror genre unscary and unengaging, I recognise that this is probably a flaw in my own movie DNA. I also recognise the conventions of the genre and admire their polished execution. Like here. I especially like inventive horror concepts, or those with a bizarre sense of humour. Sinister has the former: inventiveness, which is increasingly difficult to create in a genre as enormous as horror.
The invention with Sinister is not the combination of fairly standard elements - horrible crimes, the occult, ancient ritual, children as mysterious victims, 'haunted' house, an investigating character - but it's how they are woven into the story and how the story unravels.
Best of all, Ethan Hawke lends his talents as a facial actor to a film in which his character, Ellison the writer of real crime, is not only central to the story but part of it - unknowingly. Juliet Rylance is terrific as his loving but irritate wife, the two children Michael Hall D'Addario and Clare Foley are excellent and James Ransone is a standout as the Deputy Sheriff who is both a fan of the author and an ally.
Scott Derrickson handles the genre conventions really well, so if you're susceptible to them you'll find it scary and unsettling for much of the time. Sound and music cues play an important role, as is par for the genre course, and the underlit cinematography of many scenes keeps us in the dark - literally as well as metaphorically. It may not be the greatets horror pic but it'll do for this Saturday night at the movies in a dark cinema ...
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CAST: Ethan Hawke, Juliet Rylance, Fred Dalton Thompson, James Ransone, Michael Hall D'Addario, Clare Foley
PRODUCER: Jason Blum, Brain Kavanaugh-Jones
DIRECTOR: Scott Derrickson
SCRIPT: Scott Derrickson, C. Robert Cargill
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Chris Norr
EDITOR: Frederick Thoraval
MUSIC: Christopher Young
PRODUCTION DESIGN: David Brisbin
RUNNING TIME: 110 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Icon
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: May 30, 2013
RIVERSIDE SCREEN PREMIERES
A program of premiere screenings of new movies prior to their commercial release
on 6 consecutive Tuesdays, starts February 17, 2015 at Riverside Theatre,
Curated & presented by Andrew L. Urban, discussion to
follow with special guests. Briefing notes provided.