Review of SINISTER

Horror movies are constantly tossing sudden loud noises, creepily effective music and random bursts of violence at the screen and seeing what sticks, but few of them succeed as chillingly and effectively as “Sinister.”

Let me make one thing clear from the get-go: Movies that manipulate audiences with sudden loud bangs or shrieks in an attempt to make them jump out of their seats do nothing for me. In fact, I rather despise those moments in chillers when the sound track drops out so the loud bang/random cat/hidden maniac really stands out. That said, there are about four of said “jump scenes” in “Sinister” and the damn thing got me all four times.

You’d have to go back as far as “The Ring” in 2002 to find the last horror movie that generated this much spine-tingling suspense throughout its entirety. “Sinister” is a movie that knows how to freak you out, and it only occasionally resorts to the kind of cheap, tawdry cliches that have become the bread and butter of horror movies in the 21st century.

Ethan Hawke — an actor who is repeatedly crapped on for reasons I’ll never fully understand — plays a true-crime writer who moves his family into a house where the previous family had been murdered under sinister circumstances. Hawke has neglected to tell his family of the house’s checkered past, but their finding out is about the least of his worries after he discovers a mysterious box of home movies in the attic that show families being butchered in broad daylight. Soon enough, Hawke is being haunted by visions of a creepy pagan deity who may be behind the carnage.

“Sinister” has a few red herrings and the ending is a bit of a letdown, but the movie has such a consistently creepy, unnerving vibe that you tend to let its deficiencies go. The music alone, which is so expertly utilized that I haven’t stopped talking about it in the three days since I saw the movie, is such an amazing asset that without it, “Sinister” could be tossed off as just another cheap thriller for the $5 bin at Wal-mart. With it, “Sinister” becomes the type of movie you wish they’d leave the house lights on for. Happily, “Sinister” has much more going for it, too. If you’re the kind of person who doesn’t do well in movies about evil little kids, you better steer clear. If you read this review and thought to yourself, “Hmm. Demented clown-faced deities and villainous children are just what the doctor ordered,” “Sinister” will freak your shit out.

Rated R for scary images and bloody violence. 110 minutes.

Director: Scott Derrickson. Starring: Ethan Hawke.

★★★ (out of ★★★★)

Read more of Jesse Hoheisel’s reviews at


Categories: Jesse Hoheisel, Reviews

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