Alfred Hitchcock once said, “There is no terror in the bang, only in the anticipation of it.” In ‘SINISTER,’ the latest supernatural horror film from Summit Entertainment, anticipation is everything and its horrifying. I mean that in the best way possible. A scene as simple as a man standing in a room when the lights go out may not read ‘scary,’ but somehow the combination of Scott Derrickson’s directing and Ethan Hawke’s acting makes your heart skip a beat.
If anyone knows how to stir up scares best with faux ‘found footage,’ it’s the producer of the Paranormal Activity franchise, Jason Blum. ‘SINISTER’ opens with what appears to be a Super 8 home-video gone terribly wrong. A family of four are slowly lifted to their deaths as they are hung from a large oak tree. Flash forward to present day in the life of true crime writer, Ellison Oswald (Hawke). It’s been ten years since his first and last best-seller and he’s desperate for a break. So much so that he moves his family into the home where the hangings took place. Turns out there was a fifth member of the family; a small girl who was never found. Ellison intends to unfold the mystery of her disappearance. Little does he know, by moving into a crime scene… he is tempting the devil.
The second the sun goes down, we are thrust into his nightmare, which is… unfortunately for him, a reality. Ellison discovers a mysterious box containing Super 8 footage of, not one but several equally gruesome homicides. As he watches the carnage unfold on film, he realizes he has stumbled onto evidence of a killing spree which has spanned over decades.
Writer-Director Scott Derrickson, known for ‘The Exorcism of Emily Rose,’ understands the “AHH” factor. This can make a horror film one to remember. It is that suspenseful feeling the audience and protagonist share when you both know there is something waiting around the corner. They turn the corner and there’s nothing there. They wait. They turn around once more and “AHH.” Something terrifying is staring you straight in the face. 'SINISTER' is a series of those fantastically frightening moments. With every scary film I see, I am asking to be unnerved. Not only does this story make you scream, but it also leaves you feeling disturbed; as if something evil is still in the air after the credits roll. That my friends, is what true horror is all about: lingering fear.
Carrying the majority of the film, Hawke plays the distressed and tired writer very well. He is supported by a good cast: Juliet Rylance as the loyal wife, Michael Hall D'Addario and Clare Foley as their son and daughter. While this is really a one man show, James Ransone gives a good performance as the nervous rookie cop who yearns to break a case.
'SINISTER' arrives in theaters just in time for Halloween, opening nationwide October 12, 2012.
By Pamela Price