Action / Horror / Mystery


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January 28, 2013 at 05:04 AM


Vincent D'Onofrio as Professor Jonas
Ethan Hawke as Ellison Oswalt
Juliet Rylance as Tracy
James Ransone as Deputy
720p 1080p
849.37 MB
23.976 fps
1hr 50 min
P/S 16 / 148
1.60 GB
23.976 fps
1hr 50 min
P/S 19 / 71

Movie Reviews

Reviewed by larry-411 9 / 10

The movie for jaded horror fans who think nothing can scare them

Directed and scripted by Scott Derrickson ("The Exorcism of Emily Rose," 2008's "The Day the Earth Stood Still") from a C. Robert Cargill story, "Sinister" is an exquisite realization of an original paranormal theme. The movie debuted in this same town's SXSW Film Festival in March.

Ethan Hawke is Ellison Oswalt, a true crime author and devoted family man with a what-have-you-done-for-us-lately fan base and editor anxiously awaiting his next blockbuster. Wife Tracy (Juliet Rylance) and youngsters Ashley (Clare Foley) and Trevor (Michael Hall D'Addario) are tired of constantly moving from town to town as Oswalt is wont to plant temporary roots close to the subjects of his ripped-from-the-headlines novels. As the film opens, the Oswalts are moving into yet another new house, but Ellison swears this is the last time, and selectively informs his family of his intentions.

In the process of unpacking, Ellison discovers a box of the previous owner's old home movies in the attic. Thus begins the odyssey into the unknown. Let it be said at the outset that this is not "just another found footage film." In reversing the role of viewer and protagonist, to some extent, it's Hawke's character who discovers the reels while we see his story played out on screen. We don't spend two hours watching shaky 8MM footage. They are integral to the narrative but aren't the sum of its parts.

In his horror debut, Hawke turns in a striking tour-de-force performance that rivals anything I've seen recently ("Insidious'" Patrick Wilson comes close). Rylance is delightful as the patient but exasperated wife who's barely willing to stand by her man for one more moment. Foley (Abby in "Win Win") and D'Addario (Josh in "People Like Us") are frighteningly authentic as the glue that holds this tight-knit family together. Fred Dalton Thompson ("Law & Order's" D.A. Arthur Branch and former U.S. Senator) does a star turn as the stubborn sheriff who will have nothing to do with outsiders tarnishing his town's already-shaky reputation. Welcome comic relief comes from underrated character actor James Ransone ("Ken Park," "Inside Man," HBO's "The Wire").

This is Ethan Hawke's first foray into this genre, a simple consequence of his passion for the material. "He said he'd never do horror," paraphrasing the filmmakers in the Q&A following the screening here, but he fell in love with Derrickson's script. The casting of Juliet Rylance as his wife was also done at his suggestion. Their on screen chemistry is undeniable.

The technical team doesn't miss a beat. Top-notch visual effects are always key in a film like this, but the common flaw in this genre lies in overdoing it. CGI and post-production trickery can certainly advance the narrative where appropriate but "Sinister's" old school in-camera effects, done while shooting, enhance the believability of the action.

Cinematographer Chris Norr eschews hand-held for stationary tripod shots and Hitchcockian slow pans, with POV tracking shots that allow the audience to sense the protagonist's growing paranoia. The occasional subjective POV angle, where the character looks at the camera, effectively places the viewer into the scene.

Lighting in the Oswalt home, where most of the action takes place, is appropriately subdued and rife with interplays of light and shadow. Hawke is often seen in silhouette, masking dark corners hiding secrets, literally. Terrifying night scenes beg the question, "Why are you going up into the attic?" Christopher Young's original score blends perfectly with needle-drop songs from some of the filmmakers' favorite indie bands. In a typical production, where third party songs will be inserted, the actors work to a temp track -- music that plays in the background until the company can obtain licensing for the tunes they want for the finished product, usually unknown (although often hoped for) during filming, that are then added to the soundtrack in post-production. With "Sinister," Derrickson and his team were able to purchase the rights prior to shooting so the cast members performed to a playback of the songs that would actually be used in the final cut. It does make a difference, especially when seasoned professionals like Hawke are "acting" in sync with the same music the audience hears in those scenes. It creates a symbiotic ambiance that links viewer to actor.

As a reviewer, I try to keep expectations out of my thoughts and writing. After all, it's only fair to the filmmakers (and me, and my readers) to judge a movie on its merits. Fortunately, it's not too much of a challenge to be as objective as possible when entering the theater, especially if it's a premiere and no other reviews are out there (and you haven't watched a trailer). But Fantastic Fest is a genre festival, after all, and one would not attend, theoretically, without being a fan of same. So expectations are placed on the film simply by virtue of the fact it's even being shown.

That's why I'm happy to report that "Sinister" was all I hoped it would be. Yes, this is why I attend Fantastic Fest and movies like this make it worth the trip. This is the flick for jaded horror fans who think nothing can scare them. This one does it. "Sinister" will give you nightmares.

Reviewed by BobbyGuerrieri 10 / 10

Best Horror Film in the Last Decade

Ellison, played by Ethan Hawke, is a true crime novelist who is looking to publish a bestseller more than ten years after the release of his hit book, "Kentucky Blood". Ellison moves his family (a wife and two young kids) into a house that was the scene of a grisly crime, leaving a mother, father, and two children dead, and a third child missing. Upon moving in, Ellison finds a box of super 8 films in the attic. On the tapes are the murders of the family who previously lived in his house and four other murders dating back to 1966. The only connection between the murders is a symbol found in all the videos. With his marriage deteriorating and his children's behavior becoming increasingly strange, Ellison is determined to connect the dots and possibly even solve the string of gruesome murders.

I'm sure everyone is familiar with the popular 'scary maze game'. Even if you know what is going to happen, you will most likely be scared in the moments leading up to the 'big scare'. You aren't scared of what is on the screen, but you're scared of what is about to be on the screen. That is the difference between surprise and horror. If the moments leading up to a jump scare are suspenseful, the actual scare is considered 'earned'. Too many horror movies nowadays have unearned jump scares. 'Sinister' is not at all one of those movies. It has it's fair share of jump scares, but after the initial shock, you don't feel at all relieved. The scares stick with you and you will go back to being just as tense as you were before the scare.

Another way 'Sinister' differs from most modern horror movies is that it actually focuses on plot. The film's director Scott Derrickson spends just as much time focusing on plot development as he does on scaring us, much like he did with 'The Exorcism of Emily Rose'. Since the characters are more developed and have more depth, we are able to relate to them much easier. 'Sinister' is more of a drama about family than it is a horror movie.

Ethan Hawke gives one of the best performances I've ever seen in a horror movie. He is great through the entire movie, but especially shines in scenes where he is frustrated. Juliet Rylance who plays his equally as frustrated wife is also great. With great performances from the two leads, it almost doesn't matter how well-acted the characters of their children are, but they are great nonetheless. Michael Hall D'Addario who plays Trevor provides one of the most shocking and terrifying scares I've ever seen (I just wish it wasn't in the trailer. However, if it wasn't, I may have peed).

I was lucky enough to see this movie in advance and attend a Q&A session with the director and writer. In the Q&A, they mentioned how this is a new take on the 'found footage' genre. This time however, instead of an "anonymous source" finding the footage and "editing" it from 36 hours to 80 minutes, the main character is the one who finds the footage. The audience is shown the footage, but not all at once. It is split up perfectly. Every time you hear the projector power up, you will automatically begin looking through the tiny slits between your fingers and you will certainly hold your breath.

'Sinister' is disturbing. 'Sinister' is 'Saw' level disturbing. During some scenes, I was actually trembling. The ending is also extremely messed up and surprising. And messed up. Not to mention messed up. The shocking imagery and twisted murders with certainly stick with you. Luckily you won't have any nightmares about the movie, but that's only because you won't be sleeping at all.

'Sinister' is the scariest horror movie in years and the best overall in the last decade. Horror fans will flock to see this movie and will not be disappointed. It is well-acted, well- written, well-directed, and most importantly, terrifying. If you see only one horror movie the rest of the year, let this be it. It is near-perfect and a step in the right direction for horror movies.

Reviewed by violetmoreviolent 7 / 10

Horreur technologique

In this day and age, horror is getting more and more creative by demand since the psycho killer in the woods-scenario has pretty much run its course. A consequence of that is the incorporation of contemporary technology and concepts appearing in the genre; "found footage" films have replaced Jason and Michael, and while these films do have potential (this year's indie "V/H/S" had some neat ideas), even they are beginning to lose steam. Enter "Sinister", which is an amalgam of timeless supernatural horror themes and "found footage" technique that has proved to be a consistent box office draw.

"Sinister" follows a true crime author, Ellison (Ethan Hawke) who moves his family (unbeknownst to them) into a house where an entire family was hung to death in a tree in their backyard, save the youngest daughter who vanished without a trace. Upon moving in, Ellison finds a box of 8mm footage and a projector in the attic; contained in these reels of film are various murders dating from the 1960s up to present day— one of them is the filming of the hanging murder that occurred in his backyard. As he furthers investigation into the footage, he finds more than he bargained for when connections are made to an ancient deity who takes the souls of children.

On a surface level, "Sinister" appears like every other horror piece on the market, but I was surprised by the substance the film had. Conceptually and thematically speaking, it's not painfully original, but director Scott Derrickson makes up for that with striking visuals and a daunting soundtrack. The opening of the film is particularly disturbing— the movie begins with the family hanging murder, which sets a damned unsettling tone for the rest of the film.

In terms of the supernatural elements at play in the script, they almost seem fairytale-ish (a Pagan deity who feeds on children— c'mon), but it does add a unique element to the film. I have to say though that the most frightening thing in this movie are the actual murder tapes themselves. It could be just me, but the notion of filmed murders unsettles me to the core, even if I know that the footage is faked; as if the act of murder itself isn't awful enough, documenting it is downright... well, sinister. The footage utilized in the film is unsettling, shocking, and above all, it's realistic, so the audience gets the same unpleasant feelings shared by Ethan Hawke's character. Truly macabre stuff.

Another major positive for this film is that the acting is far above par for what most genre fans are dealt. Ethan Hawke is a quality actor and newcomer Juliet Rylance proves her chops here; their scenes together are particularly strong, and much more than any horror fan could dream of asking for. The film's ending can be seen from a certain distance, although it doesn't necessarily make it less shocking in this case. If anything, it adds to the sense of dread pervading the film.

Overall, "Sinister" was a pleasant surprise for me. It doesn't offer heaps in terms of originality, but it's a stylistically stunning film and takes steps in the right in direction very gracefully. When it comes down to it, I can't say that I was even really "scared" by the film so much as I was unsettled by it. It has its share of orthodox jump scares, but I was more bothered and rattled by the grim nature of the film as a whole, which is a nice feeling to walk away from the theater with as a thick-skinned genre fan who has become increasingly harder to unnerve. 7/10.

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