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John’s Horror Corner: Sinister (2012), and a few decades of horrifically linked family snuff films

February 21, 2013

MY CALL:  Okay.  This movie kept my attention and interest for every minute of running time.  No joke!  It’s not extremely exciting, but the exciting moments REALLY stick with you and a few gave me some serious fear-induced tingles when I jumped.  Not gory but quite twisted.  Don’t miss it!  IF YOU LIKE THIS WATCHV/H/S (2012), Session 9 (2001), White Noise (2005).

Writer Ellison Oswalt (Ethan Hawke; Daybreakers, Taking Lives) moves to a new house with his wife Tracy (Juliet Rylance), his daughter Ashley (Claire Foley; Win Win) and son Trevor (Michael Hall D’Addario).  He receives a cold, unwelcome greeting from the Sheriff (Fred Dalton Thompson; Secretariat) because of the nature of his last book and the money-saving history behind the house he bought for his family.

Sinister, opening with gritty home video footage of a family’s murder, is just that.  Ellison has moved his family to a murder house without telling them so that he could write a book about the mysterious murder.  The house once belonged to one of many victimized families, all of them murdered and all of the murders chronicled on home videos which Ellison finds upon moving in…just sitting in a box in the attic.  Their content is, well, occasionally less than pleasant between the barbeques and birthday parties.

As Ellison watches these twisted home films, he jots down notes like “how did these videos get here” and “who’s filming the videos.”  No sooner than Ellison starts watching do weird things start happening around the house; the sounds of footsteps, “old home” sounds, his son’s horrifying night terrors.

Creepy, weird videos.

The videos, all recorded by the killer (or killers, as the mass murders from one video to another are separated across decades), depict a pleasant family activity followed by a tongue-swallowing snuff film.


The Super 8 films are silent, but the sporadic twitching foot (while asphyxiating) adds a dreadful and macabre, though not gory, flavor.  Especially during the Ellison’s film-watching scenes they did a great job with mood-setting scoring complemented by foul harbingering shots of the devices of the recorded murders.  Even during the happy intermission scenes you find yourself dreading the next.

Creepy, weird figure in the brush outside.

As we learn about how the videos are so closely linked, the weird and creepy escalates…a lot.  This movie had no trouble keeping my attention, yet my anticipation augmented not for fear of “when” something would happen, but “what” and “why.”

Searching for creepy, weird things in the dark.

I wasn’t a fan of the ending and its build up in the final third of the film, but I continued to enjoy this movie and find much interest and suspense nonetheless.  We’ll call the ending a bad writing decision directed well (even though it was written and directed by the same man).

Director Scott Derrickson is making a name for himself.  He showed us he could do edgy, contemporary horror with his semi-satirical-gone-wrong The Last Exorcism.  Between that and Sinister, it comes as no shock that he is rumored to be writing the upcoming Poltergeist remake.  While I am NOT someone who feels that a Poltergeist remake is warranted, I’m somewhat comforted that he’s doing it. Although I’d love it if Sam Raimi (Drag Me to Hell) got involved!


Moving at a steady, stimulating pace, this movie taunted my nerves but not my patience while unweaving a decent story that was very well directed.

Don’t skip this one!

REALLY weird and creepy!  Bughuul, the eater of children.  Pagan mythology, or obsessed writer’s pathology?

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