'Sinister' carries cliches, delivers terror

Ethan Hawke
Ellison Oswalt (Ethan Hawke) arming for the unknown.

Have you ever watched a terrifying movie or show alone at home, and, suddenly, in the middle of it, you have to go to the bathroom or get something that just happens to be in another room?

Soon, you find yourself nervously moving across your house thinking the ghosts or demons you were just watching are hunting you down. The makers of “Sinister” decided to make that experience a whole lot worse.

“Sinister” told the tale of writer Ellison Oswalt (Ethan Hawke) whose 15 minutes of fame appear to be up after the success of his last true crime novel. This led him on a literary journey to recapture glory by moving his family into a new home that was the site of a recent grisly murder.

He soon found Super 8 tapes in the attic accounting the murder as well as others. This then sparked numerous nightly, ghostly encounters. Why did it have to happen at night?

Ethan Hawke
Scared straight.

As just passionately stated, most, if not all, of the events involving Oswalt and the demonic being later identified as Buhguul happened at night, which may seem cheap and cliché to some, but it gave the movie its entire creepy and rather malevolent atmosphere.

As Oswalt watched tape after tape (five total) with a tortured ambition, the idea that something would spark an event caused much knees-under-the-jacket syndrome (My jacket gains at least one size for every good horror movie watched). It rang with the same style as the first “Paranormal Activity,” which used a similar method.

What accompanied the darkness was what I normally find distracting in horror: music. The score was among the creepiest to inhabit any recent horror movie. Moans, creeks, whines and heart throbs were all incorporated into the score, mimicked the tone and made listeners hear sounds they usually dread and associate with an oncoming threat, which made for some engrossingly terrifying scenes.

Speaking of threats, the character of Buhguul was a properly horrifying one at that and was not seen except through the video clips that he inhabited. The acts shown through the tapes kept his presence lingering through every scene as a good villain should be.

Writing on the Wall
Daunting writing on the wall.

But the movie was not without clichés and scenes that boo-scares with little payoff. One was the innocent, young daughter and the disapproving teen as well as the wife who begged and pleaded to a spouse who just couldn’t say no. Another was a scene in which Oswalt was followed throughout the house by the ghosts of children taken by Buhguul, which was creepy at first, but the welcome quickly ran out.

But there was originality, including the aforementioned atmosphere. Yet the most important was the protagonist himself. Hawke brilliantly played the obsession-driven Oswalt, who feverishly went through the tapes and down the rabbit hole as a man driven by past glory and knowing the folly he was doing but could not turn away.

“Sinister” was a profoundly terrifying movie that knew exactly what made it work and what the heart of its tale was, and even showed the consequences of being fame-drunk. It may prove repetitive for some who want boo-scares to become bigger and varied, and may even disappoint those fans when it tried to do so.

As I was leaving the theater, I overheard some tween saying he thought it was original and silly (jeez…some critics), but here is some food for thought, Justin Bieber: If it were those things, would it have scared everyone in the audience as it did. Ponder that as you whip your hair out of your eyes and run to the bathroom in horror later.

B+


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