I was going to review ‘The Gift’ starring Jason Bateman and some other people but the thing is, the film started and then the film ended and almost two hours of my life was wasted so instead I’m going to talk about the film I watched last Saturday night.
It’s a film that I obviously know about (because everyone has at least heard of it) but I haven’t personally seen it unless you count all the other Blumhouse films that I’ve seen then I have seen it. It might as well be renamed ‘Blumhouse: The Movie’. All the classic presentation traits are there but we’re getting ahead of ourselves. What’s this film all about?
‘Sinister’ follows the Oswalt family as they move to a new house at the behest of father and husband Ellison (Ethan Hawke). Together with his wife, Tracy (Juliet Rylance), his son, Trevor (Michael Hall D’Addario) and his youngest daughter, Ashley (Claire Foley), they are met with a no so welcome reception from the local law enforcement. Turns out, Ellison is an author whose only successful publication was a non-fiction true crime book that gained him significant notoriety and notable infamy.
Turns out, the house that Ellison has moved has moved his family into is the subject of his next book as it was the scene of a horrific quadruple homicide where the family living there were found hanging from a tree and the fifth family member, a 10-year-old girl called Stephanie is missing. Whilst shifting some boxes around, Ellison discovers a box of Super 8mm footage and each reel shows the gruesome murder of a family. As he and his family begin to experience strange happenings in the house, Ellison must get to the bottom of who or what is behind this series of killings.
‘Sinister’ was one of three big titles that introduced Blumhouse as the new heavy weight in low budget horror, the other two being ‘Paranormal Activity’ and ‘Insidious’ although the company had been going since the early 2000’s.
The film is directed and co-written by Scott Derrickson whose previous writing venture was ‘The Exorcism of Emily Rose’ which I’m not familiar with. In fact, the only film that he wrote and I’ve seen is ‘Urban Legend’ which is basically a rip-off of ‘Scream’ which is what all teen slashers in the late-90’s to early-2000’s were. I’m also surprised to learn that he wrote and directed ‘Doctor Strange’ and he also directed ‘The Day The Earth Stood Still’ in 2008 so this guy has some big budget movies on his CV.
Derrickson’s friend and writing partner on this venture is C. Robert Cargill and aside from writing ‘Sinister’ and the sequel and also co-writing ‘Dr Strange’, these are the only notable things that he’s done.
Also, it’s a bit surprising to see Ethan Hawke in an actual straight-up ‘horror’ movie for once. He may have done one or two in his career but as far as I know, he most does action and drama which is fine and actually quite nice to see him give the genre a go.
His character is portrayed as a bit of a prick in the early scene with the police but seeing as he knows he’s not welcome in their town, it’s fair that he’s got his defences up. As the movie progresses and he delves more into the films, his curiosity and intrigue drags him further into the mystery, even at the detriment of his family.
His son has horrendous night terrors throughout the movie and only get worse as time goes on. His daughter has an odd fascination with painting on the walls and I think we all know how that’s going to turn out. Mummy and Daddy are going to have to explain a lot of paintings of swinging bodies on the walls to their house guests.
In fact, this whole film is seriously predictable. I wouldn’t say that it’s scary because as you know, it takes a lot to scare me but if it’s an interesting enough concept, then it earns a pass. Frankly, I feel like I’ve seen this plot before. It’s the ‘investigative’ plot which tragically stops just short of having a scene where Ellison goes to the local library to use their one and only micro-film machine to look at old newspaper clippings. They didn’t have to go that far because the timeline of this film takes place when the internet exists.
All through the footage, Ellison sees odd symbols painted on the walls in blood (naturally) and manages to find a ‘know-it-all’ who explains to him that these symbols correspond with a Pagan called ‘Bughuul’ who is the most uninspired and least scary franchise villain (this will be a franchise). Bughuul is plastered all over the promotional posters and is basically the spooky face of the franchise (it will be a franchise) and yet he appears at choice moments throughout the plot for what is now known as a ‘Bughuul’ scare which is basically a jump scare where Bughuul very suddenly pops his head right into frame. It’s quite annoying actually because you can tell when it’s going to happen with almost pinpoint accuracy. I wish horror directors would figure out that jump-scares only work when the audience isn’t expecting it. We know that a long, silent, drawn out, ‘tense’ shot of pretty much anything is just a setup for a jump-scare. You’d be forgiven for thinking that the film is mostly about this otherworldly creature but it’s actually mostly about Ellison and his boring family.
I suppose the biggest prediction that I proudly foresaw is the final plot twist which the whole film had been setting up. After being ‘Bughuuled’ through the attic ceiling and then burning the Super 8 footage, Ellison decides to take his family out of the house only to learn from the copper that he’s non-affectionately named ‘Deputy So & So’ (James Ransone) that all of the families were killed had something in common, the all died after they moved from the house where the last death took place which seems a bit bizarre but long story short, Ellison and his family are in trouble.
Now, when I noticed that we never see the person filming the murders, a child always goes missing and all the death scenes start with the family already incapacitated, it’s not beyond the realms of possibility that the missing child is the murderer. Lo and behold my powers of clairvoyance. Ashley has drugged the family and hacks them all to death with an axe before Bughuul emerges and carries her into the film with the other killer kids. As the box of films sits in the attic, the camara pulls out and we get a nice, sudden close-up of Bughuul’s face. The end. Since Ethan Hawke wasn’t in the sequel, I thought that he might die at the end although I’m a bit surprised that his wife and son died as well. Normally, it’s men that get chopped and the wives are the heroes but there you go.
With a very small budget of $3 Million, Blumhouse once again bring home the big bucks with $87.7 Million and positive reviews.
To be honest, having heard the reputation of this film before seeing it, ‘Sinister’ did live up to the hype but for me, that hype wasn’t very high. I didn’t expect it to be scary or even all that interesting, just a load of pretentious mess interlaced with jump-scares but looking back to a week ago, it’s fine as movies go. It’s definitely not the worst film I’ve seen this year. ‘The Gift (2015)’ still holds that title.
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