Many times, horror movies try so hard to push the envelope and slather the script with attempts to scare and menace the viewer that the actual plot is flawed because not enough care was put into it. And sometimes, the opposite happens. A film with suspense that doesn’t go beyond the music that helps to build it. Sinister is a movie with a lot of build up, both in the previews and the actual film, that leads way to little more than empty space.
Ethan Hawke stars as Ellison, a true-crime novelist who is looking to write his next hit. His moves his family to a town where a mysterious murder occurred a short time ago. Unbeknownst to his wife Tracy (Juliet Rylance), the house they’ve moved to was where the family was murdered. Their children Ashley (Clare Foley) and Trevor (Michael Hall D’Addario) add to the familial setting which helps to set up the story in the long run but little time is spent with them so development and attachment doesn’t come easy.
The movie isn’t devoid of that which gives it its title. There are scenes completely devoted to the sinister side of this movie genre in the way of old video recordings that Ellison finds in the attic. While they form the basis of the storyline, there is enough of a separation between them to keep the film itself rather tame. So while the audience is exposed to much of what the videos show, they’re still offered as mere secondary pieces – which is where the film begins to show signs of weakness.
As a whole, Sinister offers some insight into a lot of potential for a film that could have stood apart from the rest in a good way. Instead, all that gets offered up is story that builds up to an ending that feels like a copout. Almost as if the biggest fear is to step outside of the box and offer up something new and menacing. It’s a letdown for a film that stood strong with some incredibly haunting and disturbing footage that soon crumbled into the waiting game.