Halloween is nearly here, so now is the time to check out a scary movie. Does "Sinister," a new horror flick starring Ethan Hawke, fit the bill? Entertainment Weekly's Owen Gleiberman filed the following review for NY1.
When a horror movie is stitched together from other horror movies, that’s usually, in my book, a point against it. But "Sinister," a mash-up of half a dozen other films, not only contains a few honestly terrifying jolts, it's also the rare horror movie that’s just ingenious enough about everything it borrows to make its second-hand quality kind of fun.
Ethan Hawke, at his most antsy and compelling, plays an author of true-crime novels who’s really a knockoff of Jack Torrance in The Shining. He’s a writer struggling to produce, who likes his whiskey too much, whose work lures him toward mental instability and who moves his wife and kids into a home where gruesome murders took place. A family was hanged, in burlap hoods, from a tree in the backyard.
In the attic, Hawke discovers a box of old Super-8 reels, most of them from decades ago. They’re home movies that turn gruesome and Hawke, perusing them for clues, is a lot like the FBI profiler of Michael Mann’s Manhunter. He keeps freeze-framing the footage and what he starts to catch glimpses of is a face that looks a lot like Michael Jackson if he’d returned from the dead to play a goblin in Paranormal Activity 6.
My favorite thing about "Sinister" is derived from a movie I didn't even care for: last summer's Super 8. It's the notion of grainy old amateur footage as a looking glass into the past. In "Sinister," digital technology is lit by rationality, whereas Super-8 film, in its blurry shadings and fuzzy warm colors, has a lack of exactitude that allows it to contain ghosts. Basically, "Sinister" is a don't-go-in-the-attic movie and I knew perfectly well, after a while, what it was going to scare me with. But I got scared anyway.