Saturday, October 20, 2012

Review: Sinister

Sinister, stripped of context and timing, is a perfectly acceptable, workmanlike horror flick, that gives us a neat idea and some well put together scares but kind of blows it (okay, really blows it) in the story and character department. But I can’t strip it of context and timing, and both those things force me to put it up against 2012 other two horror flicks (The Cabin in the Woods and The Woman in Black) and against the other two movies I’ve seen this week (Looper and Argo). And unfortunately for Sinister, those are all fights it’s going to fucking lose.

To the plot: A true crime writer has recently moves his family to a house where a grisly murder took place, killing all of the family who lived in the house except for the youngest daughter, who is still missing. He quickly discovers a box full of Super 8 Camera footage (because Super 8 cameras are creepier) the contain footage of the family and their murder, as well as other families and their murders, with a creep inhuman figure in them. Soon he’s seeing strange things about the house and a symbol of a Pagan deity is found floating around the footage.

The first 20-30 minutes of the movie is where most of the problem crop up. The dialogue is universally clunky, the exposition awkward, the character work a shade or two too thin and the acting ranging from okay to boring. This is all compounded with the movie’s later problems, including one of the worst cases of ‘horror dumb’ I’ve seen in a movie lately. And while I’m complaining, a lot of the movie’s best jump scares and twists are spoiled by the trailers, but I can’t really blame the movie for that.

But a weird thing happens after the first 20-30 minutes. Once all the awkward character work is done, the movie turns out pretty damned engaging. The scares are extremely well put together and there’s just a thin enough veneer of character to make you care. The concept, while clearly influenced by the Slender Man Mythos (look it up) is legendarily cool, and a lot of the execution of said concept is well done. Yeah, it’s annoying that they never even bother to hand wave why the main character won’t turn on the lights, but I can’t say it’s not effective. It was directed by Scott Derrickson, whose previous movies have all sucked horrendously, but who seems to have grown a little bit of talent for this movie. Maybe in a few years we’ll get a legitimately good movie out of him.

Sinister is still a flawed movie and is made to look worse by the company it keeps. Sure it lacks the class and acting chops of Woman or the brains and balls of Cabin, but neither of those things are actually its fault. Right now, it’s October so we all want a horror movie, and if that’s what you’re in the market for, I’m gonna call this one tentatively recommended. It’s not perfect, but you could do a lot worse.

Elessar is a 22 year old Alaskan born cinephile and he thinks the villain looks like what would happen if Tommy Wiseu joined Slipknot.

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