If watching a good horror movie could be compared to sipping a glass of well-aged red wine, watching “Sinister” is like downing a glass of spoiled milk; it is a health hazard.
Despite horror junkies’ accusations, one does not walk out of “Sinister” 20 minutes away from the ending because one is afraid. One does so because one wants to save one’s life and sanity. There is a world of difference between a movie trying to frighten you and a movie trying give you a fatal heart attack.
The audience is assaulted with one jump scare after another for over two hours running time without a break of any kind. Accusations of snobbery aside, the fact is that good horror films are innovative and seek to frighten their audience via subtle use of direction, camera work and writing. Subtlety does not exist here.
Complementing a weak and uninspired sequence of scares is a derivative and uninspired plot, written by director Scott Derrickson (“The Exorcism of Emily Rose”). Has-been true crime writer Ellison (Ethan Hawke, “The Woman in the Fifth”) has moved himself and his family out to the middle of nowhere to research the murder of almost an entire family years before. What he has not told his wife and two kids is that they are in fact living in the same household in which the murders took place.
Ellison finds a box containing a set of Super 8 films up in the attic that show videotapes of the family’s mass hanging, along with other such crimes going back to the ‘60s. The culprit, it turns out, is an ancient malevolent deity known as “Bagul,” who manifests in the recordings of his crimes as a guy wearing KISS makeup. It doesn’t take a genius to deduce where the story goes from there.
Much has been made of the movie’s use of found footage. However, this is virtually unimpressive, as found footage is old hat and has been so for years. Here, it is simply not utilized in any creative way.
Suspense is thrown out the window in this movie. Everybody already knows what is going to happen and roughly when because this is such a derivative formula. The writing doesn’t help either, with unintentionally laughable scenes where Hawke’s character tries to justify staying in the house to his wife, even as he knows that an eldritch demon is trying to murder them all.
Maybe your idea of a horror film is nothing more than a relentless sequence of jump scares. If so, by all means go see this movie. For the rest, stay away in the interest of health and sanity.