Thursday, July 25, 2013

Sinister (2012) - A Review

“Once you see him, nothing can save you.”

Oh Scott Derrickson and Blumhouse Productions, we meet again. Once again, you’ve lured me into your traps and have successfully devoured yet another slice of my horror soul, one that I will never see again. 

Sinister is a film that I have put off seeing for a quite a while. I’m not a huge fan of this style, I often think that its scares are cheap and its storylines are moronic at best, but I decided to give it an unbiased shot. I hate close-minded horror viewers and I try not to be one. I always love when I can watch a horror movie by a director/production company that I have previously disliked, or avoided, and they are able to make me change my opinion. That’s a sure-fire way to make me a lifelong fan. So last night, I ponied up to a 2 hour viewing of Sinister and here I am, writing this review once again convinced that I need to trust my gut instinct. 

Now, I know a lot of people are huge fans of this film. I will say that I went into this film excited to see it and ready to give it a genuine shot. My views may not be very favorable in this, as a lot of it is venting and expressing personal opinion. If you do not want to read something like that, please do not read past the break. If you want to know my thoughts, I’d love to hear yours as well. I do my best to foster an open minded environment on this blog, so I felt the need to present this warning to anybody who may be a fan of this film.

Title: Sinister
Director(s): Scott Derrickson
Writer(s): C. Robert Cargill, Scott Derrickson
Producer(s): Jason Blum
Starring: Ethan Hawke, Juliet Rylance, Fred Thompson, James Ransone, Clare Foley, Michael Hall D’Addario

(Spoilers) Ellison Oswalt is a one hit wonder true crime writer who struck gold in the early 2000’s with his novel “Kentucky Blood”. It shed light on an unsolved crime by uncovering evidence that the police force was never able to uncover. He has since been trying to recapture that moment of glory and has moved his family into a house where the previous owners were brutally murdered, in order to research his new book, which he is sure is going to be as successful as “Kentucky Blood”. In true Blumhouse fashion, we meet Ellison’s quirky children, one of whom are allowed to paint on the walls (as long as it’s in the bedroom) while the other has violent night terrors, and his wife who is just kind of there.

After a rocky introduction to the local Sherriff (who doesn’t want them there), Ellison finds a box of home movies up in the attic that sheds light on the case he is researching and before long he is sucked into a world of interlinked unsolved crimes which he is determined will give him his next great novel. If not, his boring wife will take his peculiar children and leave him in favor of living with her sister. As Ellison digs deeper and deeper into these home movies he reveals the presence of an ancient pagan demon, who kills families to take their children and eat their souls in his own realm, and guess what? His family is the next target. (End Spoilers)

Now, before I go any further I want it to be known (yet again) that I did give this film an honest to God chance. In its defense, it actually had me going for a little while but it reached a point where I could simply no longer uphold my suspension of disbelief and felt borderline insulted.

This film was EXACTLY what I expected it to be. A quirky set up, polished up beautifully with decent cinematography and a chilling soundtrack only to be concluded by a shit storm that left me wondering what the fuck just happened once the credits began to roll. This is what I have begun to refer to as the Blumhouse Curse, but is it really a curse? Is it a curse or is it simply a bunch of guys smart enough to know that there are legions of people stupid enough to keep shelling out money for the same movie regurgitated in slightly different ways several times a year?

The acting was decent, Ethan Hawke (as Ellison Oswalt) held his own as most of the film was focused on him and him alone. The supporting cast was decent as well; this is actually one of the few films that I can’t think of a single bad performance from an actor. I’m giving the child actor’s quite a bit of leeway as well, their children and not all of them have had the time and energy to hone their craft as their grown counterparts. The script was clever in the fact that Cargill and Derrickson found a way to deliver backstory without it seeming like it was thrown out to avoid the audience asking questions at a later point. The use of ambient noise as soundtrack I found quite effective as well. As I said, this one actually had me going for a little bit, it had me intrigued, and that was largely due to the ambient soundtrack and the use of some beautiful cinematography. A lot of the shots were very well composed, they gave the eye something pleasing to look at.

Those few comments are about the only nice things I have to say about this film though. I find films like this offensive to the horror genre, and offensive to true-blooded horror fans. I know that I shouldn’t use this blog as a soapbox, and I deeply apologize if I offend anyone who did enjoy this film, but ultimately this is a place for me to express my opinions; please move on if you don’t want to read it.

These films are formulaic and they are made as easy cash-grabs, in my opinion. From the sloppy character design of the pagan demon Bughuul to the cliché as hell ending, this film was a regurgitation of greater films in order to make teenage kids jump and scream. The entire time I wasn’t sure if I was watching Poltergeist, Amityville Horror, or Insidious. I would like to use this as an opportunity to address a question to Jason Blum: “Why do you keep giving us films like this, do you think we’re stupid?” The most offensive thing I find about it are the people behind it who believe that they are pioneers in the world of horror when they simply regurgitate things that have already made the genre great and place their own stamp on it. 

This film had the opportunity to be something great, it had an original idea and a decent cast. It even started off with a decent story, but in true Blumhouse fashion something happens about halfway through. It’s like the creative direction was lost and it just spirals into this horrible direction where all thought is tossed out the window and the originality is cast to the wind. When the demon Bughuul first shows his face on screen, well, that was about the turning point of the film for me. Much like Insidious it is the cheapest attempt at horror that I have seen in a very long time; he looked like a mix between the lead singer for a Norwegian black metal band, Willy Wonka (yes, I’m aware that was the original concept) and a gothic teenager. From the overused aesthetic of Baghuul to the children placing their fingers in front of their lips and saying “shhhhh”, it was horror cliché after horror cliché, and that is when you lose me. Don’t even get me started on the final shot of the film, that was just a low blow, and I am left wondering “What happened to the horror generation?” when I see countless people posting on various forums about how this was the best film of the past 20 years. It genuinely makes me sad, and I don’t understand what they see in it that I don’t, or why they don’t see what I’m seeing.  

Scott Derrickson, you just know how to make a movie that pisses me off. From Hellraiser: Inferno, by FAR my least favorite in the series, to Sinister you have made me swear off of your films for life. For the safety of my own sanity, actually. And Jason Blum, well, nothing else needs to be said about you sir.
Now, the P’s and C’s:


1. The Cast. As I said, decent actors, decent cast. I was not disappointed with anybody’s performance in this one. I actually found myself wishing that Ethan Hawke would branch out and work with some different directors. I’d love to see him with Ti West. 2. The Soundtrack. I loved the soundtrack. Dischordant noises and ambience always makes for an eerie and creepy mood and this film really managed to capture the mood. As some other reviewers have said though, this film delivers more on mood than story (which isn’t always a bad thing though.)


1. The Story. The film has a nice lead in, everything is set up nicely but unfortunately it’s when the film really kicks in that the feeling of “what the fuck” really amplifies. The film really leads to nowhere. Once you think it’s about to start going, you’re an hour and a half in and there’s only 15 minutes of the film left. That’s not good. Especially considering that where they decide to take you is just so disappointing.

(Spoilers) Once we see that Oswalt’s daughter is allowed to paint on the walls, you know that it’s going to play a part in the film at a later point. Also, what the fuck happened with the son’s night terrors? That’s essentially entirely forgotten, and explained away in a lackluster argument between husband and wife. Also, you lead us to believe that the daughter who is barely shown on screen becomes Baghuul’s prey? Okay. If you’ve seen the poster, you know exactly how the film is going to end. These films are predictable and cheap, as I’ve mentioned. There’s not much value in stuff like that and killer kids should be left alone. (End Spoilers) 2. Baghuul. You should never feel cheated when you finally see the ghoul that is haunting the protagonists. EVER. I feel like that should be a cardinal rule of horror. While we catch glimpses of him throughout the film, his final appearance is lackluster at best and beyond Baghuul, the final twist of the film is so bad and cliché that it’s enough to have someone pissed by the time credits roll. Not to mention Baghuul’s last minute, “Oh, I forgot something!” pop up. Really? REALLY!? I just can’t. This wasn’t some straight to DVD b-rate horror flick, this came from one of the most revered (no idea why) horror production companies in today’s market. That shit shouldn’t fly.

And now, well, I really have nothing else to say. 


-Rg Lovecraft

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