Directed By Scott Derrickson
Starring: Ethan Hawke, Vincent D’Onofrio, James Ransone, Fred Dalton Thompson, Clare Foley and Juliet Rylance
THE horror genre of cinema has been in somewhat of a slump over recent years, film studios have struggled to produce a truly shocking and terrifying horror feature. Film’s like The Pact, The Possession and Chernobyl Diaries, are all examples of recent disappointing cinematic offerings.
But Scott Derrickson’s feature, Sinister, certificate 15, has gained largely positive word of mouth buzz from the film festival circuit. At this year’s Fright Fest in London, the film received numerous positive reviews from film critics and fans alike.
Derrickson has a proven horror pedigree, his notable work to date, includes the underrated 2005 feature, The Exorcism of Emily Rose. The film starred Tom Wilkinson, Laura Linney and Jennifer Carpenter as the forenamed Emily Rose.
The horror genre has recently found itself obsessed with found-footage style features like Paranormal Activity, they are cost effective features that offer potentially high financial rewards for Studio’s. Derrickson’s feature, straddles both the traditional cinematic and found footage approach of filmmaking, with considerable success.
The film stars Ethan Hawke as Ellison Oswalt, a struggling crime writer determined to rejuvenate his faltering career by solving a string of mysterious unsolved murders. Without his family’s knowledge, he moves his family into the home of the latest murder victims. He jokingly tells his unaware wife, played by Juliet Rylance: “No honey, we did not just move two house’s down from a murder scene.”
Soon after moving in, Oswalt discovers a box containing an old 8 mm camera and footage. As he watches the footage alone in his private study, he discovers the films contain horrid home footage of the murdered families by an unknown aslant.
As he watches the horrific footage, he becomes obsessed with solving the crimes. He increasingly becomes reclusive and withdrawn from his family, as he turns to alcohol to cope with watching the horrific onscreen images.
Despite his repulsion for the footage, Hawke’s character analytically watches the footage, searching for clues. Slowly he begins to notice the repeated presence of a strange shadowy character in all the films. Later revealed to be a pagan deity, known as Bughuul, known as an eater of children’s souls, the crimes seem to hint at the involvement of the occult.
Oswalt begins to hear strange noises in his home, beginning to question his own sanity as he struggles to comprehend exactly what’s going on, seemingly opening himself up too much darker places than he first imagined. Sadly though the film’s finale was a little anticlimactic, it was very dark, downbeat and a little underwhelming. The film could have done with a little bit longer to expand upon the film’s final twist.
Theirs an interesting concept at work throughout the film, not dissimilar from the Japanese horror classic, The Ring. The idea that watching the old 8mm footage, empowers the sinister paranormal presence might not be original, but considering how disturbing the found footage is, perfectly amplified by Christopher Young’s wonderfully creepy soundtrack, mean at times the film is a genuinely unsettling watch.
Sadly despite initial promise, the film soon resorts to the tried and tested cliché horror formula, with sudden loud noises and ghoulish images popping up quickly on screen. It’s such a shame to see the feature lose faith with its own premise so quickly. An added hindrance for the film is that many of the film’s central scares are given away by its over-revealing trailer.
There’s something almost Shakespearian about Hawke’s character’s inevitable downfall. Watching old videos of himself, as a younger idealist writer ,motivated by his pursuit for justice for victims, he is disgusted that he has become so obsessed with celebrity, determined that by solving these bizarre murders, will bring him the fame and fortune he craves.
Much like last year Insidious, there are some genuinely good scares, but sadly I was just left underwhelmed by the film’s ending. Considering the film’s strong initial setup and concept it’s a shame that it’s sadly fails to deliver. Despite these criticisms, the feature still stands head and shoulders above other recent horror movie offerings.
Review By William McClean