The found footage phenomenon has permeated all aspects of the horror genre in recent years, so much so that it seems to have lost its luster. Sinister aims to change that with a new twist on the genre by focusing its story on the person who discovers the footage rather than what’s on the tape itself, or in this case, the 8mm film.
Ellison Oswalt (Ethan Hawke) is a true-crime novelist whose stories revolve around gruesome real-life murders that mostly go unsolved in the hopes that he can flesh out any new details. His latest novel takes him and his wife and two children to the house where the family was hung in the backyard. Soon he discovers a box of Super 8 films in the attic which reveals the horrors that happened to the family along with several others before them. One thing all the films have in common is a mysterious figure named Bagul, who is said to live within the images and feast on children.
Sinister makes excellent use of old school 8mm film to capture the creepy and disturbing videos Hawke’s character watches over the course of the movie. With each new family murder comes a further descent into madness as Ellison’s whiskey glass gets fuller and his demeanor becomes more irrational. In that aspect, it’s a lot like The Shining. The film raises questions as to what’s really going on and keeps you on the edge of your seat until the very end.
At the center of Sinister is the Pagan diety Bagul who is shown in brief glimpses during the Super 8 films and slowly takes form as the film progresses. He’s a cross between Billy the puppet (Saw) and Slender Man. Suffice to say he’s got the perfect amount of mystery and horror to make him truly terrifying, not to mention a few pop-up scares that get the job done. His appearance will no doubt send chills down to your core.
Sinister delivers a frightening experience that makes it one of the best horror films of the year. It contains just the right amount of found footage to make it convincing, but not too campy. Sinister will have you sleeping with the lights on, or at least double checking the attic for any boxes marked “Home Movies.”
Be sure to check out our exclusive interview with director Scott Derrickson and writer C. Robert Cargill!