October 15, 2012

Sinister (2012)

"Found footage helps a true-crime novelist realize how and why a family was murdered in his new home, though his discoveries put his entire family in the path of a supernatural entity."

I've just come back from seeing "Sinister". What a pile of crap!!!

My overwhelming feeling right now is a mixture of anger and disappointment which I can barely put into words, not that it's going to stop me trying. Honest to God, if this is what mainstream horror movies have come to, it's time to give up on the genre completely.

I went into "Sinister" completely cold. I hadn't read any reviews or even watched the trailer. When I was setting up this post beforehand with the trailer and the picture of Ethan Hawke below, I still didn't accidentally spoil anything for myself. All I knew was that it was directed by the same Scott Derrickson who directed "The Exorcism of Emily Rose" and that it had Ethan Hawke in it. I had no idea what the plot was, who any of the supporting cast were, or what kind of horror movie it was supposed to be. Hell, I didn't even know what MPAA rating it had.

To cut a long story short, I saw this movie for free at my local cinema. I went to the 10.35pm screening to avoid the kids and their cellphones, and got lucky there because only 10 other people were watching the movie with me. My first thoughts were, "Oh, this doesn't seem to be very popular. Maybe everyone went to see Looper or Frankencock instead." I now wish that I had gone to see something else too.

My next thought as the movie started was, "Couldn't they afford a lighting crew?" "Sinister" was so dark that I desperately wanted to adjust the brightness and contrast. Unfortunately, this was a movie theatre and I had no access to such controls. Then it dawned on me that it was probably meant to look this way to cover up the lack of budget. If the producers spent more than $10,000 on this whole sorry excuse for a horror movie, they were robbed.

Basically, "Sinister" almost bored the living piss out of me. I say almost because after drinking a Monster and at least a litre of icy cold Coke, it obviously had an unfair advantage to do so which I had to fight against for the last 20 minutes of the film. Still, for the first 30 or 40 minutes, "Sinister" was so dull and thick with unnecessary padding that I wanted to walk out. I almost fell asleep twice in that time too.

If you don't want spoilers, stop reading now!

I had the same expression on my own face throughout.

Ethan Hawke is totally miscast in "Sinister" and his character is horribly one-dimensional. I would like to say two-dimensional, but there's not enough to earn it other than inconsistencies. He's a true-crime writer who is more interested in fame and money than his family, and he doesn't really do anything except watch a box full of old Super 8 movies while drinking whisky until he starts to see Gene Simmons (or another member of KISS with the same kind of make-up) appearing at the end of each reel. You know a horror movie is bad when the main character is watching silent Super 8 movies accompanied by an ambient sound track with a deafeningly loud bang at the end.

In the background, Ethan's character (whose name I didn't catch or care about) has an English wife who isn't English enough to know that the correct term for someone being hanged is "hanged" not "hung" (which isn't corrected by our "famous writer" either!), a very long-haired son called Trevor (Trevor!!!) who looks like a girl and has nightmares, and a psychic daughter who paints on the walls of her bedroom. Hmmmm, talk about dysfunctional! No need to wonder why they have no chemistry with each other since it's intentionally written into the plot! Just smell the cannon fodder!

It's all so predictable. The KISS demon (Mr. Boogie or "Booger" as far as I could tell) is bound and determined to get everybody just like all the other victims in the home movies. It's simply a case of when and how. It's not much of a plot but admittedly still acceptable to the masses when done correctly or doesn't wimp out at the end.

Even with the telegraphed "pop-up from nowhere" jump scares and ridiculously loud noises, I sat in the cinema stony-faced but weeping on the inside that I was watching this generic dreck. Given the insane amount of similarities between "Sinister" and "Insidious", I suppose I should've been thankful that Darth Maul wasn't in this. I don't think the budget stretched to buying the mask after spending so much on cheap Hallowe'en make-up from Dollar Tree for all the ghostly kids who were lurking around the house.

"Yay! We love the dollar store!"

The only outstanding moment came with the appearance of "Deputy So-and-so". I kid you not, that is the character's name even to the point that it's shown to be listed as such on Ethan Hawke's iPhone. Oh yes, product placement meant that he just had to have an iPhone and a MacBook. Much use was made of them too, but I'm still not going to buy one.

Deputy So-and-so is so well played that I just had to look up the actor's name on the IMDb when I came home. I'm still none the wiser now that I know it's James Ransome because I've never seen him in anything before. It's a really well written role though and somewhat amusing. Not quite as amusing as seeing hanged people dancing at the end of their ropes, but I digressed. Deputy So-and-so is also very likeable which makes a huge contrast to everyone else. It's a pity there isn't enough of him to save the film.

I can't say that Ethan Hawke is bad in "Sinister" except that his range really only extends to wearing a cardigan, looking worried and painfully hiding his eyes from the scenes of brutality which he's watching. That irritated me. Not only would you expect a true-crime writer to be hardened to such things, but all the money shots of potential goriness were pulled by turning the camera back to his wincing fizzog. In fairness, the same thing happened in "8MM" (1999), but it's lame stuff and hardly worthy of an R-rating.

Forget any bullshit about using your imagination (or the "old school" suspense and thrills which "Sinister" has precious little of), with no swearing, nudity or extreme gore, I thought I was watching a PG-13!!! I was very surprised when I checked the IMDb to find out that I hadn't been! Studio interference which ran out of time and didn't work in their favour? You betcha. It serves them right for intentionally trying to make greedy, money-grabbing, kiddified products in the first place.

I'm not going to spoil the ending for you, but let me just say that the punchline falls flat by sauntering on to spell out what was going on for the hard-of-understanding who might not have picked up the in-your-face clues. I haven't felt so patronised or condescended to ever. That really takes some doing because I'm blond and I get that a lot. I also know that my tenses have been all over the place, but whatever. I'm still angry!

Since I know that you'll all go and watch "Sinister" no matter what I say, I'll just urge you to reconsider it and save your money for "Paranormal Activity 4" instead. Better yet, wait for "Texas Chainsaw 3D", "Mama" or whatever the name of the new Arnold Schwarzenegger movie is which was shown in the trailers before "Sinister". I'm not saying this to be mean or to get a rise out of people. "Sinister" really is an absolute turd.

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