Warning - Spoilers below!
"Sinister" (2012, Scott Derrickson, Summit Entertainment) is a very well marketed horror film. The trailer for it is pretty humdrum as far as horror films go and, I can admit, gives way too much away! But it's the other parts of the marketing that they've done very well, and is what drew me to see this film while it was still in the cinema.
By using Twitter, especially the hashtag '#SurviveSinister', and having someone on hand to retweet anyone using this hashtag, they really got the word out there. Their flyers in cinemas, particularly in America, were also really effective and echoed the famous marketing of William Castle way back in the 'silverscream' days! And so many others in the horror blog-o-sphere have praised this film, that I just had to see what all the fuss was about!
Ellison Oswalt (Ethan Hawke), his wife, Tracy (Juliet Rylance) and his two children, Ashley (Clare Foley) and Trevor (Michael Hall D'Addario) have just moved into a house in a small town far away from their previous home. They're used to this, however as Ellison moves them around a lot chasing stories. Ellison, a crime writer who likes to delve into real-life grisly murders and try to solve them, hasn't told his wife and family yet that they have just moved into the house of a family who was found hung by the neck until dead from a tree in their back garden!
They are warned away by the local police, but one star struck police Deputy, named throughout the film as 'Deputy So-and-So' (James Ransone) tells Ellison that he is happy to help him in return for a mention in his new book.
Ellison is dedicated as he is desperate to reclaim his fame once found with an earlier book, but soon lost when subsequent book sales didn't reach those heights. In his determination he is at first blind to the danger he has placed his family in and the truly disturbing nature of the Super8 films he watches (and we watch with him, which really created an effect I enjoyed). But we soon watch him realise what he's doing and become more and more crazy as he tries to stop it. He kind of reminds me of Jack Nicholson's character in 'The Shining'!
The film itself is fine. It's jumpy as hell, an excellent cinema horror which keeps people squealing and on edge. The camera work is a little annoying after a while, though, as they tend to swing about a bit as if it's being filmed by someone behind. This is obviously intentional, considering that our killer, the Demon Bughuul and his band of enslaved helpers, tend to film all of their activity on Super8 film and leave it lying around for the next hapless victim to uncover.
The film ended in a satisfactory manner, breaking the recently disappointing American Horror film pattern of not having the balls to just have a sad, gutting ending!
I must admit to a few jumps and some gleeful squeaks as things jumped out just as the moment of 'something-is-going-to-happen'-ness was about to pass. Timing? This film certainly has it and uses it to full advantage.
I didn't find the demon himself particularly scary looking. I mean, don't get me wrong, if I find a guy like staring at me from the bushes I'm gonna grab a big ol' golf club (probably a Driver or my 3-Wood!), but for Horror Movie-Land, it just wasn't the most terrifying. But what really won this film over for me was the kids. The child actors in this flick are good and are creepy as! And the nickname of 'Mr. Boogie' and the drawings are freaky because as an ex-kid myself and an ex-Brownie Leader I can testify that kids draw creepy shit like that all the time! I really both loved (from the horror lover aspect) and hated (from the future mother in me aspect) the angle the children play in this film. Truly unsettling.
There were a surprising amount of horror conventions which weren't resorted to also! There are characters who would have instantly died in any other movie who get to live. There are plot lines set up which then weren't used as a lame get out. But, the film resorts to cheap scares and oogie boogie moments quite early in, which in the cinema on the big screen at volume 11 is pretty effective, but I doubt I'd find it half as thrilling in my livingroom.
[Image: Summit Entertainment]