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"Sinister" Offers Scares But Lacks Originality

Kiran Kazalbash |
October 30, 2012 | 11:27 p.m. PDT


"Sinister" may have some gruesome moments that'll have you out of your seat, but it lacks originality.
"Sinister" may have some gruesome moments that'll have you out of your seat, but it lacks originality.
Zombie children, a haunted house and the boogieman summarize the plot elements of the creepy but not at all original “Sinister” (in theaters now). Ethan Hawke, in his first horror film, plays Ellison Oswalt, a crime novelist who knowingly moves his wife and children into a previous crime scene in an effort to get his name back on the New York Times bestseller’s list. 

Upon moving into the house, Ellison conveniently finds a box of old super8 films in the attic labeled home movies. He immediately watches the films, quickly realizing that instead of innocent family home videos each film is actually a detailed documentation of gruesome family murders taking place all over the country, including the one that took place in the very house he has just moved his family into.  

Each film is bloody and graphic but all have a key element, which Ellison discovers is a mysterious character lurking at each crime scene. Each murder scene also has another common element, a missing child kidnapped after every murder. 

Ellison stays cooped up in the house day after day researching and examining each new piece of evidence overlooked by police. After putting together these clues, Ellison and his family start noticing strange things happening in the house including personality changes in his own children who begin begging him to move out. 

The town police deputy, who also happens to be Ellison’s number one fan, offers to help him with the research in exchange for a credit line in the dedication page of the book. Deputy So-and-So, which Ellison lovingly calls him, hooks him up with a professor at the local university who tells Ellison that the symbols found at every crime scene date back to a Pagan deity named Bagul who lives off the souls of human children.

The rest of the movie follows Ellison as he wrestles with the decision to stay in the haunted house and write another bestseller at the expense of this family. 

Aside from a dozen jump-out-of-your-chair moments and detailed graphic murder scenes, the film lacks originality and seems to borrow clichéd scare tactics from classic horror films like The Shining or The Ring.  While the cinematography and sound elements were superb, the film becomes exhausting, as it seems like an hour and a half of creepy night scenes strung together where Hawke stays awake walking around the house with a baseball bat breathing heavily while dead children run through the house. 

Ethan Hawke takes a stab at the scary movie business.
Ethan Hawke takes a stab at the scary movie business.

What could be frightening supernatural story of Bagul (aka the Boogie man) eating the souls of children is not expanded on and instead the children are left to do his bidding while he hides in the adjacent shrubbery. 

Yes, it has been proven that a creepy little girl giggling while holding an axe terrifies audiences; however, six children doing it is just ridiculous.  

When it comes to the horror genre, less is always more and in the case of “Sinister,” more was too much. While the story was definitely intriguing, it seemed as if the director was more focused on staying within budget than keeping the audience awake at night in terror.  

Reach Contributor Kiran Kazalbash here.



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