Sinister review

Sinister is a clever little chiller that seems to be heading one way and then takes you in a quite different, and much nastier, direction.

Hawke stars as Ellison Oswalt, a writer of true-life crime novels who has just moved with his family – wife Tracy, son Trevor and daughter Ashley – to a house where he plans to work on his next book. What his family don't know is that the house they have moved into was the scene of a grisly murder that is at the core of Ellison's new book. A family was found hanged from a tree in the backyard, and one of the daughters went missing.

The film takes a clever “found footage” turn when Ellison comes across a box of Super 8 films, and a projector, in the attic. What the box contains are a film of the murder in the house … and four other murders as well. The murders have taken place in different locations across the US, and at different times – often decades apart. And, it seems, the murders are all somehow connected.

So yes, it's a found footage film. Kind of. But don't despair; this is not a film about the people in, the footage, but rather about the man who finds the footage, And what then happens to him, and the people he loves. It's also a clever, fresh take on the haunted house film - there are plenty of creaks and bangs in the night that will get you jumping out of your seat – and the serial killer drama. And even the much-maligned “boogeyman” film. So yes, it takes a few classic horror movie tropes and dusts them of, gives them a fresh lick of paint and gives you a very scary film with tons of drama and suspense.

Hawke is terrific in the lead role of a writer obsessed with having another hit book on his hands; a man obsessed with making a living and caring for his family, while also trying to get to the bottom of this decades-old mystery. He's a man haunted by the awful killings he witnesses in films, yet he must keep them to himself. Yet his family is affected – son Trevor is having night terrors; talented Ashley is painting pictures from the films. And wife Tracy is terrified of what is happening to her husband as he throws himself deeper and deeper into the project.

Sinister sneaks up on you, and punches you in the back of the head. With a block of ice. It's a film that takes you places you really don't want to go, and leaves a very nasty impression. And it has a finale that you just won't see coming. Highly recommended.

Sinister at IMDb

INTERVIEW: Cargill talks Sinister

Stuart O'Connor is the Managing Editor of Screenjabber, the movie review website he co-founded with Neil Davey far too many years ago. He likes all genres, as long as the film is good (although he does enjoy the occasional bad "guilty pleasure"), and drinks way too much coffee.

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