What fulfills your life? Is it having a family or does your career give your life meaning?
This is the dilemma our protagonist Ellison Oswalt, played by Ethan Hawke, struggles with in this 2012 supernatural horror film.
Oswalt is a true crime writer who is fading out of the popular spotlight. His previous works drew massive criticism from police officers and townspeople, as we find out that he may not have told both sides of a story.
When he and his family move into their new home, the police chief greets Ellison with a threat to not do anything to compromise the town or the police department as Ellison works on his latest story about a grisly quadruple murder. We find out that he didn’t just move a couple houses from the murder. Instead, he moved his family into the house where the murders occurred.
Once the movie tells us this, we get, what is in my opinion, the scariest film of all-time. I adore this film and enjoyed it even more in my second viewing.
Director Scott Derrickson (Doctor Strange) seamlessly blends a haunted house thrill-ride with a very gripping and disturbing murder mystery, where the more you learn about what is happening, the more the hairs on your body rise.
The scares in this film are immaculate and that is thanks to great editing from Frédéric Thoraval. Shots linger long enough to where we always feel tense. There’s always a sense of fear when we hear Ellison’s breathing, the looks he gives as he watches these gruesome Super 8 mm footage on a projector and even the subtle sounds from his clothes.
I never thought projected videos could be so horrifying. These videos are very detailed and are filmed in a way where you don’t have a wide area to look at but you still want to explore every inch of each frame being projected. I’ve never been more unsettled than watching what occurs in these videos and the supernatural entity that attaches itself to our protagonists brings absolute terror. This is one of the scariest designs I’ve ever seen for an entity.
You also have to give credit to Christopher Young for a very eerie score. While a lot of the music does sound like a generic horror soundtrack with the ominous bass, there’s a scene later on in the film that introduces these heavy, machine-gun-like percussions mixed with the sounds of editing strips of film. It adds to this anxiety-filled scene that has you on the edge of your seat to the end credits.
Not only is this a horror and mystery thriller, this is also a drama film as we get a riveting scene from both Hawke and the actress who plays his wife, Juliet Rylance. They have this heated argument where Rylance tries to get Hawke’s character to understand the danger he’s put his own family in with each story but he tries to reassure her that everything is fine. While hinted at earlier where Hawke watches old interviews discussing his fame and fortune, we realize that he does value his writings more than his family and we get a great, heartfelt line from Rylance where she says that their marriage is the meaning of his life and his kids are his legacy. It’s brilliant acting and one of the best scenes of the film. It gives, what should be a stupid horror film, a sense of realism and grounding.
Obviously, this movie isn’t perfect as it runs a little bit too long with some varying tone shifts. However, just like Halloween isn’t perfect (poor acting minus Donald Pleasence), this hits every note for me in a horror film and it has grown into an all-time favorite for me with brilliant performances across the board, a thrilling murder mystery, and some of the scariest scenes ever put to film.
It’s a masterpiece to me. Roast me for the rating but I LOVE Sinister.
24 down, 7 to go.