WRETCHED REVIEWS: SINISTER
Starring Ethan Hawke, Juliet Rylance, and Vincent D’Onofrio
Directed by Scott Derrickson
Written by Scott Derrickson and C. Robert Cargill
How far would you go to secure your own legacy? That is the question at the heart of Sinister, The Exorcism of Emily Rose writer-director Scott Derrickson’s return to horror after helming the underrated sci-fi remake The Day the Earth Stood Still.
Ethan Hawke stars as Ellison Oswalt, a true crime writer a decade past his last best-seller. Desperate to secure his family’s financial future and, if he’s honest with himself, his own fame, Ellison, against his better judgment, moves his family into a murder house where an entire family perished, save for a missing daughter.
Ellison’s researches lead him to discover an 8mm camera and films in the attic. The films are of the crime that took place there, as well as several other related ones around the country over the last nearly 50 years. Soon enough, strange things start happening, and with the help of a local occult researcher (professional weirdo Vincent D’Onofrio), Ellison is able to piece together what happened in his house and who (or what) is responsible for the series of deaths… not that that will ultimately help him or his family.
Sinister has been rightly receiving mostly rave reviews from both the horror and mainstream press. Derrickson slowly ratchets up the terror, gradually unveiling the full extent of the horror of the situation upon which Ellison has stumbled. The truth behind the killings is disturbing, and Derrickson mixes a slow-burn accumulation of dread with effective jump scares and insidious sound design and music that, not wanting to be overly dramatic, truly gets under your skin.
Beyond the imagery and sound, though, what amplifies Sinister’s horror to truly awful levels is the idea that Ellison would put his own family – whom he professes to love – in real harm’s way for something as unimportant as fame or money. Let’s just say that Ellison gets his wish but not in the way he hoped.