Halloween Horror Movie Month: Sinister (2012)

If you hear a bump in the night, don’t worry, it’s just the ghosts of the murdered family who once lived in your house.

The premise puts Ethan Hawke in the shoes of a true-crime novelist struggling to find his next big story. He moves into the home of a recently murdered family and discovers a box of home video footage that might reveal exactly what happened to them.

Why any certain interest has sparked up in me about seeing this flick is for one reason and one reason only: the co-writer himself, C. Robert Cargill. Okay, most of you who see that name probably have no idea who the hell I’m talking about and wondering what all of the hype around him is, and that’s fine because this guy is making his writing debut with this movie. The reason why I care about him so much is because most people out there, probably know him by the name of Carlyle from Spill.Com, as I did, and because of that, he has remained an inspiration for me and my movie-review wring ever since I first stumbled upon those guys’ site. However, now that Cargill is outta there and in the big-leagues, it’s finally his time to shine and show everybody why he loves watching shitty movies as much as he does and thankfully, the guy somewhat capitalizes on that idea.

The one element of this film that sort of killed my hype for it was the fact that it’s directed by Scott Derrickson, aka, the guy who remade The Day the Earth Stood Still over 4 years ago and gave us Keanu Reeves’ most boring performance to-date. Seriously, when you have Neo practically falling asleep in a movie, you know that’s bad! Anywho, that’s why this movie was a very mixed-bag for me going in but surprisingly, Derrickson actually does a nice job with this material and gives it that old-school, horror vibe we all love so much, especially around this time of the year.

Everything starts off very slow, in an almost melodic sense of pacing, until it starts to show us tiny bits of terror and freakishness starting to happen, and that’s where the dread and the fun of this movie start to hit. Most people will probably be wondering if this is your typical horror movie, with jump-scares and moments of silence, that all of a sudden get one big “boo!” at the end, and it sort of is like that type of horror movie but with a more effective use of it’s scares. The scares here, although timed, do not feel cheap one-bit and may actually catch you off-guard a couple of times to when, where, and how they get you. I never like jump-scares, quite frankly, and it’s not because they actually scare me but because they just feel like an over-used way of making people jump when manipulate the sound too much and honestly, who likes to be manipulated? Especially when you’re watching a horror movie? But, even though they do use a couple of jump-scares here and there, it still feels deserved and still does a nice job at putting me into this atmosphere where nothing seems to ever go right.

However, as much fun and freaky this horror movie may be, it still never seems to really branch-out of the typical horror-conventions, and be it’s own, original-self. Even though Cargill does seem like he’s playing around with the conventions of the horror movie a bit, he never seems to be able to fully let himself go and instead, a lot of dumb and silly things happen over the course of the film that may make this come off as a bit unintentionally goofy in it’s own way. There’s a random scene with a dog that only seems to be in there for a scene of tension and suspense, but doesn’t offer anything new; the ghosts here are portrayed in a really goofy-way that’s more funny to point and laugh at, than to actually be running away from, had you have to deal with them in real-life; and then there’s the actual monster himself, Mr. Boogie, or whatever the hell they call him, that really disappointed me.

All of the hype around this movie, is mainly because of that one scary image of the main ghost-like monster of the whole movie. Seriously, it’s so eye-catching that it even has it’s own poster just dedicated to it (look to the top-right), and whenever you even see him in these little, short shots in the film, he’s pretty scary and makes you very curious as to what the hell it is. Is it a man? Is it a killer? Is it a monster? Is it a ghost? Is it a piece of Hawke’s imagination? We never know and I liked that about this film, but what really made me feel like they dropped the ball with this monster-like character, was when they eventually get on to showing him in the movie more and more, and for longer periods of time, where he just starts to get goofy after awhile. I was scared at first when they would show it for a couple of a seconds on-screen, but then they start to over-show him that makes him resemble the WWE wrestler Kane, with a slightly more, effed-up mask for a face. That bummed me out because he started off so scary, but after awhile, all those shrieks and scares just begin to go away and turn to laughter.

No matter how silly or stupid this film begins to get, Ethan Hawke never, ever seems to lose his belief in what he’s doing here as Ellison, the writer that seems to get himself caught-up a bit too much in his own work. Hawke has never done a horror movie role before and it’s a surprise because the guy actually makes all of his scared/terrified looks seem real enough to actually have us believe why this guy still does the stupid things he sometimes does. However, Ellison isn’t a perfectly lovable character: he lies, he drinks way too much, he continues to stay in a house that obviously means huge-harm to him and his family, and manipulates a cop into being his buddy, in order to get info out of him. These all sound like perfect ingredients for the perfect, dick-head character but for some reason, due to Hawke’s charm, we believe in him, we root for him, and we actually like him when it’s all said and done. He’s a flawed dude, no doubt about it, but then again, aren’t we all?

Consensus: With a great sense of dread, fun, and suspense to it, Sinister comes off as being a better horror flick than what we are used to seeing, but still doesn’t fall short of being a little silly here and there, or by falling for the typical conventions we are used to seeing with horror movies in today’s world.



  1. Hey Dan as I said in my review it’s not total crap but close. Ethan Hawke is a likable actor and does what he can with his character. He really does believe what is happening and you are scared for him but with just one or two “why didn’t he just do this” the story falls apart. Rental for sure. Enjoyed your review though.

  2. Great review! Never even heard of that one prior to reading this but it looks great, I love good monsters, though it’s a shame when after using them little early in the movie they show it more and more and it becomes less scary, like with Insidious.

  3. Nice review, Dan. Cool to spot out another Spillio in the vastness of the interwebs. I too am pretty psyched to see this because of Carlyle’s involvement, really proud to see the guy’s movie get pushed out and do so well.

  4. […] Dan O’Neill is the creator and writer behind Dan The Man Movie Reviews, one of the first review blogs I ever discovered on WordPress and a hub through which I got to know a lot of other great writers.  Dan puts out a steady stream of reviews for new theatrical releases and more, check out his reviews of this week’s Here Comes the Boom, Seven Psychopaths, Argo and Sinister. […]

  5. I do like that you mentioned Derrickson. In this respect I actually know him more from his previous major Horror movie, Dead Silence, but I think he found much more of a rhythm here than he did with that excerpt from a ventriloquist’s nightmare

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