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October 13, 2012 | 12:00 p.m. CST
It’s never easy finding a truly terrifying horror flick. The protagonists are either frustratingly stupid, the plot is unoriginal, or the movie is just plain dumb. Although Sinister isn’t an exemplary horror film in many regards, it’s still very well done.
Sinister follows true crime writer, Ellison Oswalt (Ethan Hawke) on his search for his next best-selling work, the last of which was 10 years ago. Yearning for success, Oswalt packs up his wife and two kids and moves them to a new town with a new unsolved crime.
Oswalt’s wife (Juliet Rylance) asks if they’ve moved into a house near the crime, but Oswalt assures her not. What he’s really done is move them into the house where a family was murdered and a little girl went missing.
Keep a tally — Oswalt does a lot of dumb things throughout the film, such as opening and watching an old box of Super 8 films labeled “Home Movies.” These reels are scenes of grisly family murders, presumably filmed by the murderer.
Instead of alerting the local police (all of whom hate him, save for one starry eyed deputy), Oswalt keeps the films and is desperate to use them to write another bestseller.
But as Oswalt keeps watching these gruesome films, weird things begin happening around the house. This is where Sinister begins to lose points, with the typical creaks, thuds and footsteps coming from the attic or the loud bangs and growls emanating from inside the house.
Oh, and the power goes out a lot because, obviously, bad things can only happen in the dark.
In many ways it’s a different horror movie with the same bag of tricks. The ending, however, is surprisingly original and utterly terrifying. You might have to watch the final minutes through your hand or bury your head in the popcorn bucket. Either way, this is a horror film that deserves to be seen — just not alone, perhaps.