Had I been watching it at home, alone, on a dark and stormy night, my neck likely would be sore by the end of it, from making repeated glances behind the couch you know, just to be safe. Its this years Insidious: well-built, respectful of audience members intelligence and yet genuinely freaky.
Ethan Hawke (Daybreakers) plays Ellison Oswalt, a writer of true-crime books whos uprooted his wife and kids to another town for research purposes. Unbeknownst to all but him, their new home is the site of a still-unsolved, bizarre mass murder, in which four family members were hanged on the backyard tree.
Upon moving in, Ellison finds a box in the attic containing several Super 8 film canisters and a projector. The reels flickering images depict the brutal event that occurred mere steps away, and others. Having peaked a decade prior, the author like a shark to blood in the water smells a big best seller in the making.
As demonstrated by Sinisters chilling opening, these home movies are absolutely unsettling. The stocks scratches and grain suggest a snuff film, and the discordant, looping scores unique for each reel employed by director Scott Derrickson (The Exorcism of Emily Rose) bear a real power to disturb. The less you know about them, the better; Id even advise against watching the trailer.
Hawkes commitment secures your buy-in. As usual, hes solid and reliable. To his credit, he invests equal effort into his performance as he did in his Oscar-nominated role in Training Day.
Consciously or not, Derrickson makes a shrewd statement on its own film genre. Knowing that each successive Super 8 reel will bring further pain and suffering, Ellison still threads em up. He just has to; he cant not know whats there in other words, just like moviegoers who willingly pay admission to be frightened.
Sure enough, the two teen girls behind me proved that theory. As Sinister edged toward the precipice, ready to pull audiences over into its climax, one of them begged her friend, Lets just go! The reply was, I know, I want to, but I cant!
That Derrickson spells out the ending too much is to be expected for a mainstream movie, but damned if its final boo didnt make those girls scream all the same. Rod Lott