Don’t Worry, Daddy … I’ll Make You Famous Again.
I actually found myself in a position that I could fulfill a couple of things all at the same time by reviewing one movie. It’s a horror movie so it goes into the October Horrorthon, it was a request that I could take care of from my friend Kori, and it was also a movie in theaters now and I had not been to the cinema in a while. The problem that I had was that the movie she requested was one I had never heard of, and I typically won’t honor a request made for a movie in theaters until it comes out on DVD because theaters are too expensive to see things I don’t give a shit about. At least until I get famous in a couple of months and they start paying to get me to see their movies. But I talked with my friend Jordan about this request and he said the trailer looked pretty good. I checked it out and it did actually pique my interest. Not enough to pay full price for the ticket, but I could certainly be inspired to check it out for $5 at my local theater. And that’s how I ended up watching Sinister, co-written by C. Robert Cargill, co-written and directed by Scott Derrickson, and starring Ethan Hawke, Juliet Rylance, Clare Foley, Michael Hall D’Addario, James Ransone, Vincent D’Onofrio, and Fred Thompson.
The Oswalt family – father Ellison (Ethan Hawke), mother Tracy (Juliet Rylance), daughter Ashley (Clare Foley), and potentially-other-daughter-that-they-claim-is-a-son-but-I’m-not-convinced Trevor (Michael Hall D’Addario) – move into a house that will supposedly help Ellison finish his next novel. He’s a true-crime novelist who hasn’t had a hit since his first book and has made the creepy and dangerous decision to move into the actual house where the murders his book are about took place, unbeknownst to his family. Turns out that four members of a family were hanged from a tree in the backyard and the remaining daughter went missing. Ellison finds a box in the attic that contains several reels of Super 8 footage that start innocently enough but turn into murders. There’s “Pool Party” where the family plays in the pool and then cut to them tied to deck chairs and being drowned, “BBQ” which starts as a barbecue that cuts to the family being immolated, “Sleepy Time” which is the family tied to the beds and then getting their throats cut, and “Family Hanging Out” which is of the hanging murders. Inside these videos, Ellison sees a dark figure that is either a demon or a Juggalo, and with that he starts having strange and scary occurrences around the house.
I didn’t build up any sort of expectation for this movie going in, and it met them. It’s good. Not great, just good. It’s not entirely unlike the movies that they put on their poster because they share the same producer (Paranormal Activity and Insidious). In fact, it’s got a lot of elements that can be found in Insidious. The evil thing’s whole goal is to lure kids into the spirit world through their dreams, and that is exactly what happened in Insidious. But I wouldn’t say these movies were too alike. I guess these kinds of movies are always going to share a few similar themes. What I did take issue with was that it really didn’t scare, at least not in any way I respect. I don’t like movies startling me. It doesn’t take a quality filmmaker to startle someone. All you really need to do is be really quiet for a little while and then have something pop out. It generally feels cheap in a movie, even if it is sometimes effective. They do create tension pretty well to lead up to those moments, but the actual “scary” thing was usually just something popping out or a goofy scene of dead kid ghosts running around a house. The story of the movie was fine, but certainly not innovative. It’s all about something evil that kills people for watching a movie. But this time the evil thing was named Mr. Magoo (Wikipedia says it’s Bughuul, but I know what I heard) and not Samara from The Ring. And they also spent an awful lot of time on the other part of the story: Ellison wanting to write a new hit book. But that part of the story got me annoyed right from the start. First, why would you ever intentionally move into a place where you know people were murdered? I don’t necessarily believe in ghosts, but I also don’t believe in finding out the hard way. And his whole idea of moving there to help him write his story about it seems like bullshit. I’m writing this review about the movie, but I didn’t have to move into a haunted house to do it because I can just use my imagination. And this whole thing started to ruin his family life, but I didn’t feel like he was that interested in that even though he acted like he was because I think he was trying to kill his son/daughter, Trevor. Early on in the movie (and it’s actually one of the scarier parts) he finds his kid in a box that he didn’t know how he got in because the kid has night terrors (that also have nothing to do with the movie). Later, when he hears a noise upstairs, Ellison starts vigorously looking through boxes with a knife trying to find the source of the noise. If your kid was pulling the same nonsense, you would’ve stabbed him in the face. And I wouldn’t really have minded.
The look of the movie was a little hit or miss for me. I appreciated the movie because the amount of time they relied on gore for scares was nearly non-existent, but the product placement was really starting to bug me. Apple either fully funded this movie or the people making it are just fully in love with it. Ellison spent 90% of the movie either on his Mac or using his iPhone. I liked when he used his iPhone though because I could totally relate to it. Instead of having an actual flashlight for one scene, he used the flashlight app on his phone. I do that all the time. I have flashlights all over the place in my house too, but they’re not on me 24/7 like my phone is. But the Apple stuff actually leads to a plot hole that I found. When Ellison is trying to wipe his hands of the whole situation, he deletes the stuff off of his Mac. You know Time Machine won’t let you actually delete stuff! Apple thinks you’re retarded! Another thing that really worked my nerves in this movie was that they felt the need to show us how everything was being activated with a series of quick cut montage edits that seemed straight out of Hot Fuzz, except Hot Fuzz knew they were doing it out of comedy. I started to get the feeling that the filmmakers really wanted me to know how to use a Super 8 projector because they had to show us exactly how the film was spooled in, then the lens clicks into place, then you spool it through the bottom reel, and then you flip the switch to turn it on. How do I know that even though I’ve never seen a reel to reel projector in real life? ‘Cause this movie wouldn’t accept me leaving without that knowledge. And then they started doing it with the coffee machine too.
I can’t say I had any problem with any of the performances in the movie. They were all either fine or good. Ethan Hawke was not a likeable character, but he did a good job at the character. He spent most of the movie being terrified by stuff, but he did a good job of it. I just didn’t like that his character kept watching old video of him saying that he values the justice his books bring so much over the fame, but then would risk his family’s life to get another hit. I guess that’s just making the character more human though. Juliet Rylance tended to get on my nerves, but I think I take a negative stance on any lady in a movie that is a buzz kill. If he listened to you, there wouldn’t be a movie. So shut up and get to dying. Though his part in the movie was not that big, I liked James Ransone as the Deputy. He was funny and vaguely dimwitted, but not so much so that it was unrealistic.
Sinister was a bit of a risk for me, going in with completely no idea what I was in for, but I would say it was not without its charms. I just don’t know if I’m confident saying those charms were enough to recommend seeing it in theaters. The story seemed to take a lot from other horror movies like The Ring and Paranormal Activity, but the comparisons were not so overwhelming that I’d say it was the same movies. The performances were also good. I guess the biggest problem was that the scares were mostly cheap and not much more than startles. I don’t regret seeing this movie in theaters, but I also would’ve been completely comfortable waiting to RedBox it. Sinister gets “Children exposed to these images were especially vulnerable to Magoo’s abductions” out of “That symbol is associated with a Pagan deity named Magoo.”
Let’s get these reviews more attention, people. Post reviews on your webpages, tell your friends, do some of them crazy Pinterest nonsense. Whatever you can do to help my reviews get more attention would be greatly appreciated. You can also add me on FaceBook and Twitter. Don’t forget to leave me some comments. Your opinions and constructive criticisms are always appreciated.