Sinister (Scott Derrickson, 2012, USA/UK/Canada)

Widely regarded as one of the better films in the Blumhouse canon, Sinister is one of the earlier features of writer-director Scott Derrickson. Before he went on to direct 2016's mega-franchise picture Doctor Strange, Derrickson began in the horror genre. Sinister is a written collaboration between Derrickson and C. Robert Cargill, who later collaborated on the 2021 adaptation of Joe Hill's Black Phone. Both ghost stories involving children in peril, Sinister feels spiritually connected to The Black Phone

Sinister tells the story of Ellison Oswalt, a true crime author who moves into a new home with his family. Unbeknownst to his family, the home was the sight of a murder - the hanging of the Stevenson family. Oswalt uncovers a box of Super 8 tapes in the closet, all with innocent names like "Pool Party". Oswalt discovers that these tapes are kind of snuff films, involving the deaths of different families in very disturbing ways. He uncovers that there is a connection between these families and spies a strange figure in all of the films (who happens to bear a resemblance to a member of the band Slipknot).

Sinister is heavy on mood, and while it relies on jump scares like most modern horror, the Super 8 footage is genuinely eerie. While the film is not revelatory, the gradual revelation of the malevolent forces and the film's downbeat ending earn it points. This coupled with the film's use of unconventional music, including tracks by Boards of Canada and Sunn O))) / Boris, give it an added atmosphere. Derrickson found a similar atmosphere with The Black Phone, and - aside from the fact that both films feature Ethan Hawke in a leading role - the films make a great double feature. Sinister is worth seeking out for fans of modern horror, though it is not a masterpiece.



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