Hi all, so this is my first installment of Monster Monday, a weekly review of streaming horror film on Netflix. For the record, I am putting myself, a very nervous, jumpy horror movie consumer though this review for your benefit. I probably had nightmares after this, but I do it for you, my potential readers. Spoilers may be ahead, so proceed with caution. You’re welcome.
This week’s pick is Sinister, directed by Scott Derrickson. The 2012 film follows the Oswalt family as they begin their life in a new home where four family members were hung in the backyard. The true-crime writer father keeps the secret from his family and tries to piece together what occurred in the house and what happened to the missing daughter, Stephanie. After finding a box of Super 8 films, he begins to immerse himself into the recordings of the crimes and soon the supernatural begins to seep into the story.
Ethan Hawke, who may be too famous for this movie, stars as the father of the Oswalt clan, Ellison, and the only character that has any real screen time. The rest of the family gets some moments of attention, but Ellison interacts more with random police deputies and professors than with his actual family. You care so little about the rest of his family, that (SPOILER) you don’t even get to see their deaths, nor do you care. They don’t even get killed onscreen, that is how little they matter. Their deaths are so obvious that you pretty much catch on to the end climax in the first half hour. The daughter Oswalt, Ashley, is genuinely creepy and does a good job at doing that, but that’s as far as her character goes. Everyone is so two dimensional in this film it’s slightly frustrating. I know nothing about them.
Plus, and this might be nit picking, but so many questions are left unanswered. Like how could the wife not know an entire family died in the house they moved into? Why wouldn’t Ellison just do research from his giant mansion instead of moving to a weird Pennsylvania murder house? Who watches videos of mass murder with the door open when you have kids? They talk about returning home constantly, but where is home? I need to know the answers!
Still, after all this, this is one of the better modern horror films I’ve seen and may even be regarded as a modern horror classic. There are a lot of great things this film does that a lot of horror movies stray away from. Not to say there aren’t cheap jump scares, but a lot of the scares are subtle. They make you feel like you’re the voyeur into this family’s snuff film as Ellison is to the other families. You know how this is going to end, but you can’t stop watching. A lot of times, especially in the first half, they really utilize silence, darkness, and suspense.
Visually, it is dark but well shot and teases the audience into a sense of false security. It’s only into the second half where the director seemed to panic that there wasn’t enough Buguuhl in a movie about this demon, so they just started tossing him into jump scares everywhere. The first half handles the scares so much better than the second half, teasing the audience, making them feel the anxiety and suspense and learning the history along with Ellison.
Of course no movie is without clichés. Every horror movie kid has to draw creepy things apparently, like in Mama, The Ring, and Insidious. Another white family moves into a home with a creepy history and leaves way later than any normal family would ever leave. There’s a barrage of quick cut montages and loud soundtrack sounds that the main character, I remind you, can’t hear, even though he’s reacting to it. Every movie has its flaws, but overall the creepy atmosphere and interesting new villain had me intrigued. I was genuinely nervous throughout, as it serves as a great suspense film that tacked on a horror film ending and utilized new and interesting visuals. The negatives would have to be a two dimensional cast and reliance on heavy darkness to pull cheap scares. The positives are some fantastically placed scares, interesting visuals (especially of the kids), and great pacing. It is an enjoyable horror movie if you want a straightforward, but scary horror romp with some new twists and interesting takes on the genre.
Amy’s Recommendation: 8.5/10