Discovering a new horror movie that’s not only good but released in October is like finding a curly fry in a batch of regular fries. Sinister is the latest film from Scott Derrickson, director of The Exorcism of Emily Rose and ugh, The Day the Earth Stood Still remake. Fortunately, I can proudly say that this is his most effective movie yet. Even more effective than the cloudy gaze of Keanu Reeves.
Eliison Oswalt (Ethan Hawke) is a true crime novelist who hasn’t had a hit in years. As a last gasp attempt to save his career, Ellison has moved his wife and two kids unknowingly into the house of a former murdered family. If that wasn’t creepy enough, Ellison discovers a box full of old Super 8 home movies in the attic. What Ellison discovers is not only recorded footage of the family that was murdered, but footage of other families meeting their grisly demise. Ellison finds that these cases can be tied together by the fact that each family had a young child that went missing after the family was murdered. He also discovers a mysterious dark figure that seems to inhabit the films.
Without spoiling too much, I can tell you the dark figure is a demon-like creature called a Bagul or Mr. Boogie that lives in images. This means he only exists within the movies. Still his influence is great and soon takes hold of Ellison’s family, notably his children. Thus it’s up to Ellison to unravel the mystery and meaning of the footage. This leads to a horror film that follows all your typical beats but with far more creativity.
The film’s opening Super 8 footage of a family being hung sets the tone perfectly. Sinister is a twisted mystery connecting tragedies of the past to the present. The Super 8 footage scenes are what make this movie. Combine that with an unconventionally dissonant soundtrack, a terrifyingly simple monster, and you have a horror movie hit.
I don’t have much to say about Sinister because it speaks for itself. It has an inventive premise with a retro charm and a competent lead. Ethan Hawke, who I don’t see very often, delivers as both an obsessed writer and concerned family man. Even former presidential candidate Fred Thompson shows up as a no-nonsense sheriff. Though the formulaic last half of the film never quite equals the bone chilling beginning, I’d still recommend Sinister. It’s the perfect movie for this horrific Halloween season.