For most of us cinephiles, we remember the first time we saw a movie, whether it be in the theater, or at home. If the film shakes you, positively or negatively, there’s a residue left that seeps into your memory and makes it challenging to let go. Well, I don’t want to- so I’m going to highlight some Kristy horror history for this wonderful, special, month of October.
I’m someone that has always been fascinated with the idea of fear. As I’ve spoken about before here, as well as on my podcast, it’s a curious thing. I’ve seldom really felt scared from horror films, moments perhaps (and I don’t mean the intended jump-scare sort that is mere ploy not true fear) but I very rarely leave a film discomforted. One of the only movies in my adult-life that I can confidently say did this for me was Sinister and for that reason alone, I’ve just got to talk about it.
Part of what makes Sinister chilling, despite some of its cliches and required suspension of disbelief, is the fact that it’s a home video -found footage sort of film, and yet it isn’t. Our main character is finding these, experiencing what an audience would – had it been entirely that way, so we also get to witness the discomfort as he watches. It’s a double dose of fear and reactionary unease.
Ethan Hawke plays Ellison Oswalt, an author of true crime, who relocates his family, wife Tracy (Juliet Rylance), and his children, Trevor (Michael Hall D’Addario) and Ashley (Clare Foley), to a home that was the location of a set of victims, in hopes to figure out what happened and to nab his next bestseller.
Ellison isn’t necessarily the most likable of leads, after all, he seems selfish in his motives despite what this may do to his family, but he’s most certainly determined. You can give him that. Sinister definitely has its fair share of jump scares, eerie twists, and moments where you want to yell at the screen, and yet- even if it isn’t perfect, I find it to be one of the scariest of its sort to come out.
Most of the film takes place in the home, taking this singular location and finding new ways to frame or illuminate a room or hallway. For a while, Sinister feels like a mystery, suited to the true-crime genre our main character dwells in, but soon, other strange things begin to happen, including the introduction to the creepiest Super 8 tapes you’ll ever watch. Soon, it veers into the unexplained, unnatural variety, linking so many murders and deaths that Ellison is in over his head.
Director Scott Derrickson wields the talent of his lead, uses lessons from horrors past, and a keen eye for what makes a viewer tremble, and crafts something legitimately creepy. Once it starts on its path to scare, it becomes relentless. There’s something to the baddie, the lore of Bughuul that feels especially evil, making the title perfectly named.
Genuinely chilling, working hard to make you squirm, Sinister is a perfect watch for this spooky time of year.