Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Movie Appraisal: Sinister (2012)

Well, I'm not sleeping tonight.
Sinister is a terrifyingly horrific movie brought to us from the makers of Paranormal Activity and Insidious. Now, I enjoyed both of those films quite a lot, finding both all kinds of horrifying. I mean, seriously, both are incredible movies, with twists and turns and scares galore. And this one is great as well. It never disappoints, upping the horror with every subsequent scene. I mean, the characters are never brilliant, but in a movie like this it's all about the story, the visuals, the sounds, and the directing. All of those things are topnotch. Scott Derrickson does an amazing job throughout, making this an incredibly directed horror film. The Super 8 footage as well as the long scenes without any real sounds made this movie surrealistic and creepy beyond belief.

Yes, obviously this film was marketed as being terrifying. Yes, as a followup to Insidious I expected a lot. The thing is, the movie delivered. It had an unexpected and brilliant ending. It had a great performance by Ethan Hawke. It had some actually creepy performances by children, which almost never happens. Now, the visuals are not always scary, but if you can get yourself really into the movie, that's where it becomes absolutely terrifying. Just imagining a world where things like this can happen is enough to give one the shakes. And the ambiguous nature of the whole thing makes the movie that much more mysterious and awful to think about. The idea of the film is almost more terrifying than the actual execution. And the execution is plenty terrifying on its own. I wish every horror movie could reach this level of horror. If that were the case horror would be seen as a legitimate form of art in film in no time flat.

Ugh, now I just want more. I want to see more of this horror, more of the terror induced by this movie. I'm a junkie for scares, and this movie delivered enough of them to make me crave more. Seriously, there is a ton of quality here. Sure, there are some missteps and mistakes, but for the most part this movie is the real deal. It is pure horror, derived from a terrifying place in the human soul. It reaches out and creates a feeling of paranoia and real fear. It's after midnight now. I have work in the morning. But I'm not going to sleep anytime soon. If I do, I'm almost certain that every creak from my old house will remind me that anything could happen in this crazy world. If I try to sleep I can just imagine closing my eyes and hearing a whisper at the edge of my ear... or closing my eyes and seeing something staring back at me in the abyss of my eyelids.

The movie was creepy. It followed around a burned out true crime author trying to find his big break. He (and his family) moves into the home of some victims of a fairly grisly murder involving the whole family being hanged except for one of their children who happened to be abducted (or so it seems). Well, he finds some old and creepy home movies showing multiple different murders. All of them seemed to be tied to some Pagan deity or demon and a cult. All of the murders are more closely linked than that though, and the author may have made his biggest mistake in moving into the home of murder victims...

I'm just going to trail off there. He did make a huge mistake. It's a mistake that costs him much more than his life. Well, Ethan Hawke (playing the author) gives us a character we can both relate to and kind of hate. He's a big jerk throughout most of the movie. He lies. He drinks. He shouts a bit. He's annoying and unhappy and a bit apathetic. He seems to care much more about fame and fortune than about the well-being of his family. But he is passionate about a few things. He really wants to figure out the mystery of what happened to the murdered family. He does too- figure it out, I mean- but a little too late, I should think. You kind of feel bad for him at the end of the movie, but you also realize that he's not the only one who figured most of this stuff out. And at least one person knows most of the story, even if it is pretty unbelievable. It's still scary, and the ending still leaves a shiver crawling down my spine, but it's not a movie where the ending is something I absolutely hate. It makes sense and works, even if some might think it invalidates the entire movie. I don't, but I can see some people absolutely hating the ending.

The best parts of the film hands down are the sounds and music. I have to mention those things because they are nearly pitch-perfect. I have never seen a film use sound and music so effectively in its horror. That being said, the visuals never quite stand up them. I kind of wish it looked more- I don't know- horrific? Scary looking? New technology, which is used throughout the film, just simply is not a scary thing. And the bright colors and crisp picture of the non-Super 8 film just kind of shows that a clear and crisp picture does not really beget horror in the best way possible. I mean, there are some films that benefit from a beautiful picture and quality of film. Sinister is not one of those films. It's still good- very good- don't get me wrong, but it could have been better if it were made in a time when everything didn't have to look all shiny and perfect.

For example, sometimes the images of the "antagonist" just looked photoshopped in. And that just seems kind of lazy and awful to me. It doesn't ruin the movie, and it may just be my perception, but I didn't like that. The antagonist- Bughuul- is absolutely unnecessary. The children zombie-ghosts are also absolutely unnecessary. None of them are scary. None of them add any real terror to the film. The scariest parts of the movie are the unknowns things: the Super 8 videos, the ambiguous murders, and having no real reason to do the murders. The children in the "extended endings" of the videos are also brilliant. But showing everything is not brilliant. It takes away from both the premise and the mystery, and it leaves me wishing to excise the elements of the movie I didn't enjoy. But I'm nitpicking. Most of the film is incredibly good, and I recommend it wholeheartedly to any and all fans of horror.

This movie is scary. Did I mention that? I need to mention that again if I did before. Watching it alone late at night is asking to be creeped out and paranoid. It does have some moments of silliness and ridiculousness, but those are far outweighed by the moments of terror. Again, watch this if you want a scare. Yes, there will be moments where you will roll your eyes, but the quality of the horror far outweighs the awful little moments. So, if you enjoyed Insidious, The Blair Witch Project, or Paranormal Activity- or if you just like interesting horror- check this out. It's good in my opinion. It definitely brought the terror and paranoia with it. Check it out if you get the chance. I mean, come on- occult, murder, mystery, crime, and terror? How can you even go wrong?

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