New horror film entices with ‘sinister’ supernatural twists
There’s definitely something dark about “Sinister,” Scott Derrickson’s supernatural horror film that was released to theaters on Oct. 12. Derrickson also directed “The Exorcism of Emily Rose”, which scared me into sleeping with the lights on for a week straight. As far as the fear factor goes, “Sinister” does not fail to measure up. It blends in blood-curdling bumps-in-the-night with family and inner turmoil, making for a truly terrifying film.
Ethan Hawke delivers a riveting performance as Ellison Oswalt, the troubled author of a bestselling true-crime novel that is reminiscent of Truman Capote’s “In Cold Blood.” As a husband to a bombshell blonde and proud father of two, Ellison is living a happily quaint life — only if he ignores the fact that with each book he writes, the residents of Smalltown, USA must relive the horrors of previous murders and continually loathe his existence. Like any author who has sipped from the chalice of notoriety, Ellison itches for another bestseller, so he centers his latest endeavor on discovering the truth behind the hellish family massacre that occurred in his newly-purchased home.
As Ellison unpacks, he finds a box of home videos in his attic. Hoping for inspiration, he watches each reel and instead winces in terror as he witnesses footage of other gruesome family murders that all feature a common creature. From the “family hang-out” massacre in his new home’s backyard to the “lawn work” slaughter of 20 years earlier in another part of the country, the films reveal the glimpse of the same spectre. Ellison becomes more reclusive with each day as he watches, writes and obsesses, failing to acknowledge the crumbling domestic foundation caused by his neglect. Ethan Hawke evokes genuine pity from us as we helplessly witness his descent into alcoholic madness over connecting the pieces to this mystery, which causes his long-suffering wife to abandon hopes of reconciliation and threatens to leave him.
Ellison learns that the figure in each video is “Baghuul,” a pagan deity that consumes the souls of children. Paranoia seizes Ellison and he believes “Mr. Boogie” haunts his home, not just his reels of found film that serve as a gateway to reality; as a result, his children begin to behave in horrifying ways: Enlisting the aid of a local deputy (James Ransone) and Professor Jonas (Vincent D’Onofrio), Ellison stumbles onto a secret behind the lore that could either send him soaring to stardom or challenging an ancient evil.
Film critics and horror flick enthusiastics will find themselves anticipating the promising screams that erupted during “Sinister.” As far as spooks go, there are plenty of them. In fact, viewers may have to remind themselves at times that they are safe in the theater and not shackled in Ellison’s office, where “Mr. Boogie” could torment their desolate souls.
So you know that dark part of your conscious that you never want to visit? Time to make yourself at home.