Sometimes you’re just not in the mood for certain things, right? Well, I wasn’t in the mood for any horror stories this weekend, so I decided to skip the vice-presidential debate and go watch Sinister instead (see what I did there?), and the result was mildly rewarding —with some reservations. I’ll get to that in a moment.
Sinister is the new movie starring Ethan Hawke, Juliette Rylance and, briefly, former presidential candidate Fred Thompson (damn it, seems like you can’t get away from politics anywhere!), and it revolves around a has-been writer of true crime novels (Ethan Hawke) who moves with his family into the house where a quadruple murder was committed in order to do research and write a book about it. Turns out, the house is haunted. Who would have thought, huh? Man, they sure threw me a curveball on that one.
This business with haunted houses is starting to become a little too ubiquitous. I mean, it’s already sprung a new sub-genre of horror that’s more popular than any other sub-genre, pretty soon every real estate agency in the country will be displaying “MURDER-FREE” signs in front of the houses they’re selling, kind of like in that Chuck Palahniuk novel with the paranormal house seller. I forget what it’s called. Lullaby? Yeah, let’s go with that, it’s called Lullaby.
My opinion is that the victims of haunted house movies sort of have it coming. Seriously, I wonder how many pale kids coming out of the closets it would take for a person to decide aw hell naw! And tear ass outta there as fast as they could. I know I myself would probably skedaddle from that bitch at the first sign of anything moving that isn’t supposed to be..
To be fair, this movie does address that question, but, in my opinion, not soon enough.
Ethan Hawke’s character discovers the hauntedness of the house by way of a box of super-8 reels depicting pleasant family gatherings followed by gruesome murder. The creepiness of those videos is very effective, but then again, everything looks creepy in Super 8. I think Spongebob would look creepy in Super 8.
These movies always have some uber-moralistic undercurrent to them, and this is no exception. Ethan Hawke’s sole objective with his new writing endeavor is to repeat the success of his debut novel in order to live in the fast lane, and it seems everything horrible happening around him is punishment for his greediness. Sound familiar? It should, because every character in this movie is totally unoriginal. In fact, the whole movie is a grab-bag of successful horror-movie tropes of recent years: apart from the aforementioned haunted house there are also tons of creepy kids, a cranky sheriff, “found footage,” and a guy who dresses like he plays bass guitar for Cradle of Filth.
Nevertheless, the movie is truly scary at moments, and not just in the manner of little monster things going oogidy-boogidy-boo! Sure, most of the scares come in the usual beats, and if you’re a veteran horror fan you can pretty much do a countdown to when they happen, but they are effective nonetheless. All the whilehe soundtrack screeches in your ear like it’s forgotten something and has to get back to the car.
The ending is not so frightening, but it is somewhat uncompromising and wraps everything up nicely, keeping certain mysteries intact in order not to spoil their eeriness.
In the end, this movie could be better. If it didn’t cling so fiercely to certain clichés, it could even become a staple of the genre like The Shining or The Omen. But as it stands, it’s merely diggable. It’s well directed, has a kickass soundtrack and Ethan Hawke’s amazing work compensates for a lot. In fact, if you’re not fussy like I am, you might even think it’s great. The job of a movie critic, after all, is to complain about meaningless bull-honkey that will probably not bother most people, so there you go.