Directed by Scott Derrickson [Other horror films: Hellraiser: Inferno (2000), The Exorcism of Emily Rose (2005), Deliver Us from Evil (2014), The Black Phone (2021)]
I didn’t really expect to enjoy Sinister when I blind-bought it on DVD. It looked interesting, sure, but the cover mentioned both The Conjuring and Insidious, two films that I just don’t care about in the slightest, so it did make me wary.
After multiple viewings, though, Sinister stands strong as a new-age favorite of mine.
The idea behind the film is quite interesting, and though there’s a little build-up involved, it all feels decently natural, and adds to a somewhat uneasy atmosphere, especially once Hawke’s character starts seeing more and more unexplainable phenomenon. Also, those home videos are top-notch (Lawn Work being the most shocking, but Pool Party definitely has it’s charm, and Family Hanging Out was a strong opening to the film).
Ethan Hawke (who I know mostly from the Assault on Precinct 13 remake and Training Day, but was also in The Purge) was a pretty strong character, certainly complex in that you couldn’t really blame him for wanting to chase the mystery, especially since it’s been so long since he had a successful book (and him watching those old interviews was just painful, and who couldn’t feel bad for him?), but you could certainly see his wife’s point (Juliet Rylance), though I’ll admit Rylance’s character annoyed me at times.
James Ransone (Deputy So & So, who has been in The Wire, and It Chapter 2) just cracked me up. Talk about great comedic relief (“Snakes don’t have feet”), but he was also one of the few arguably sensible characters in the film. That scene where he’s talking about how he’d never sleep in a house where someone was killed, and he believes entirely in the supernatural whereas Hawke’s character just mocks it, shows a certain strength in his character which I adore, and he does help out throughout the film.
Others who had strong performances included Vincent D’Onofrio (was was uncredited), as he was the one with what little information on Bughuul that could be found. The two kids, Michael Hall D’Addario and Clare Foley (Ivy from Gotham), were decent with what they were able to do. And of course, with only two scenes, shout-out to Fred Thompson, who’s failed 2008 Republican primary run still cracks me up to this day. He also had a presence to him, and I did like how he let the family pass without ticketing them nearing the finale.
Speaking of the finale, I thought it was decently strong. I can’t remember particularly if I was surprised when I first saw it, but whether I was or not, it is a great ending. I could have done without that final jump scare at the end (I know that some viewers were okay with it within the context of the story, but final second jump scares always leave a bad taste in my mouth, especially when it’s for the audience’s reaction only), but who didn’t like House Painting?
I found the story here pretty unique, and Bughuul a fun entity for Hawke’s character to try to learn about. Sinister was a modern-day horror film that exceeded my expectations (especially since I don’t generally have a good track record with post 2000-supernatural horror), and definitely a movie I enjoyed. Just remember, snakes don’t have feet.