Sunday, March 11, 2012




2012 is going to be a great year for horror films. And we may have just seen the best one yet.

During any given film festival, a cavalcade of films will come along, making their world premiere. However, occasionally, festivals will be privy to something a little different. That was the case for this year’s SXSW Film Festival, and their “Super Secret Screening.” Despite being spoiled by an outlet that shall not be named, very little could have ended up preparing the viewing public for what is now known rather lovingly (at least based on the general reaction to this utter gem), Scott Derrickson’s Sinister.

Just one of a handful of fantastic upcoming horror features that will make their way out during 2012, this film may sound like just another horror film, but it’s far from it. Penned by Ain’t It Cool Newser C. Robert Cargill, the film is a broodingly dark and darkly brooding blend of crime tale obsession and haunted house creeps. And what a wonderful concoction that makes.

Sinister weaves a rather simplistic web. The film follows the story of a novelist who, after failing to make good on the promise of a past best seller, takes his financially hindered family to a new home, hoping to dig up the case of a lifetime. However, when they move into the very home where the horror took place, things change entirely, putting more than his story in danger. A brutal blend of Seven style thrills and Insidious style chills, Sinister is a film that feels wholly unlike anything we’ve seen in quite some time. And it’s creepy as all hell, to boot.

The true star of this film is the collective that is Derrickson and Cargill. Taking a rather straight-forward haunted house narrative, and tossing in the added aspect of found footage taking a major part of the narrative, the duo are able to craft a film that is both genuinely intriguing as a crime story, as well as creepy and visceral as a haunted house horror film. Our lead, played wonderfully by a convincing Ethan Hawke, stumbles upon a collection of home movies, which portray the murders that he is trying to connect, and this, stylistically and narratively, adds such a strong sense of depth and realism to the film. Vincent D’Onofrio shows up, and is a welcome addition to the cast, as is Juliet Rylance, the beautiful Tracy, wife to our lead. The cast, top to bottom, are on their A-game, bringing with it the ability to make this super natural story seem not all that impossible. This sense of dread guides the film, and makes it the must see gem of a horror film that it truly is.

Script wise, the film is top notch. Giving the viewer a great deal of information without forcing the film to drag itself through the mud of exposition, the film is also able to bring some lighter moments out, making the terror all the more impactful. Derrickson, best known for The Exorcism of Emily Rose, is at the top of his game here, seemingly inspired by Fincher’s aforementioned masterpiece, Seven, in both structure as well as style. The editing is noticeable, adding a great deal of suspense to the film, as does the score, from iconic horror composer Christopher Young. Young’s score is a menacing bit of electronic music, punctuating each set piece without playing too much for jump scares.

And truthfully, that is this film’s strongest suit. Hell bent on really avoiding going solely for jump scares, the film has such an intensely strong sense of mood and atmosphere, that the film is an uncomfortable one to watch. Toss in the night terror inducing home video footage central to the plot, and you have a film that you won’t soon be forgetting. Sure, it does feel slightly over long and a bit meandering in moments, but with great performances from all involved, and some of the best horror craft work in years, Sinister is a must see film that you will never be able to forget. With an October release date looming, Summit has something truly special on their hands. Hopefully, I’ll be able to fall back asleep by then.

SXSW REVIEW: 'Sinister' Is a Familiar Haunted House Movie, But That's What Makes It Work



"Sinister." A dark and stormy horror movie of the Stephen King variety, "Sinister" steps carefully through familiar territory. Anchored by a moody Ethan Hawke performance and classically unsettling scare tactics, this icy supernatural thriller from director Scott Derrickson ("The Exorcism of Emily Rose") and co-written by Ain't It Cool News contributor C. Robert Cargill (aka "Massawyrm") delivers on the promise of its title by boiling down its appeal to pure atmosphere.

The movie makes up for uneven dialogue and pacing issues through sheer horrific imagery, starting with the first shot, a grainy Super-8 of a family hanging from a tree playing in reverse. That's one of several morbid death scenes discovered by true crime novelist Ellison (Hawke), a man on a vain mission to regain his popularity 10 years after his last hit.

Uprooting his family for the umpteenth time to a small town where mysterious murders have taken place, Ellison moves his brood to the exact spot of the aforementioned family slaughter. He wants answers so badly that he even lies to his concerned wife (Juliet Rylance) about the nature of his motives; exactly the kind of misdeed that this sort of formulaic exercise establishes so there's just reason to punish its misguided anti-hero.

Although the dyspeptic local sheriff drops by to offer his disdain for Hawke's depiction of the police force, "Sinister" remains almost exclusively within the confines of the writer's new home. Armed with a boxful of Super 8 movies detailing brutal murders seemingly connected to the one that brought him this far, Ellison spends late nights playing the material on loop until he starts to see a ghastly figure in the background. And is it staring back at him?

It's here that "Sinister" resorts to drab scenes of Ellison roaming the abode after dark searching for the sources of bumps in the night. Every time it starts to sag, however, Derrickson injects a fresh scare, owing much to the unexplored terrain of a child with night terrors. That would be Trevor (Michael Hall D'Addario), Ellison's adolescent son, whose creepy somnambulistic tendencies find him popping up in dark places each time Ellison thinks he's about to discover something else -- until, of course, he discovers something else.

Derrickson leads his lambs to slaughter with ample skill, if not innovation. Relying too often on things that go bump in the night, "Sinister" has its fair share of clunky moments, particularly in its depiction of the marital drama used to flesh out the toll that Ellison's careerist obsession has caused. ("This could be my 'In Cold Blood'!" he barks at her when she complains.) With a standard shrieking score and the usual jumps, "Sinister" sometimes plays like a cheap, unimaginative formulaic indulgence. Outsourcing the explanation for everything to a bland professorial type (Vincent D'Onofrio), the movie lacks the ambition to tell a unique story.

But the scaled down nature of the production is impressively old school. (Producer Val Lewton, who invented this game in the forties with low budget studio efforts like "Cat People," would have loved it.) The ghostly visuals creeping into the plot retain an especially chilling value for the lack of information accompanying them, and the supernatural figures are among the scariest to appear in an American horror movie since "The Grudge."

Derrickson uses shadows and hyperbolic flashes of lightening with a powerful command over their implications. "You can never explain something like this," the sheriff warns Ellis, and he's exactly right: Menacing forces don't need a raison d'ĂȘtre in order to legitimize their menacing qualities. Concluding the experience with a frightening climax that neatly caps the morbid feel, "Sinister" doesn't break any rules, but excels at following the spookiest of them.

Criticwire grade: B

HOW WILL IT PLAY? Summit doesn't plan to open the movie until October, but its "secret" preview at SXSW played nicely with the festival's midnight crowd, boding well for its box office success during Halloween movie season later this year.

'Velocity of Gary' Full Movie



Early buzz of SUPER SECRET SCREENING of 'Sinister' is positive...


SINISTER is the most serious, intelligent and adult horror I've ever seen, and also the scariest. WELL DONE,  

Dug SINISTER. Good, genuine scares make for great fun. Sound design paired with story telling makes it one not to miss & hard to shake.

I'm still buzzing about Sinister. Shaking. Crime film with horror tinges. Putting on the coffee now, going to be a long sleepless night.

SINISTER: I applaud effort to make something different than usual usual horror fare. Didn't get under my skin, but it sure tried hard.

SINISTER is white knuckle terror.

It's official: "Sinister" is perfectly-titled! Now to sleep, perchance to...nightmare? Damn.  

 secret screening was Sinister and it was so fucking scary. Amazing film! Everyone is in for a treat come October

Sinister went over really well. An actually clever deviation on haunted house movies. Will make some noise in October.

Just wait for "Sinister" to come out America!! It's truly the best horror movie I've seen in years. Congrats !!

Sinister is going to kill next fall - no pun intended. If you like thrillers, go. I may have nightmares for life.

SINISTER stars Ethan Hawke, was written by  and, was directed by Derrickson, retards my sleep forever. 

SINISTER was pretty scary. Lots of great, creepy imagery. 

Sinister is going to kill in October. Seriously, this movie is a genuinely great thriller. CREEPIEST film I've seen in a while


Was SINISTER scary? I don't know, why don't you ask all the pee in my pants?? Holy crap. People are gonna go *insane* for this. 

Sinister is an amazingly well made film. Great job ! Thx 4 letting me b a part of ur special night

Really dug Sinister. Something new with haunting visuals & genuine chills. Bravo  & team! 

Pretty sure I jumped on top of  5 times duringSINISTER. My nerves are completely wrecked.

SINISTER is the creepiest movie I've seen since INSIDIOUS. Holy crap, this is going to be a great Halloween release. Not sleeping tonight.

Jesus Christ, SINISTER is unbelievably scary. My heart is still aflutter.

SINISTER is another brick establishing 2012 as a landmark year for horror. Congrats  

Just saw SINISTER. Never. Fucking. Sleeping. Again.

Summit has something really special with Sinister. Bloody, brooding and aggressively creepy. Loved it times ten.

SINISTER starts w/ an unforgettably haunting image & ramps up the tension to near unbearable levels. It's original & terrifying.