Indie Horror-thon: Sinister (2012)

With Scott Derrickson (The Exorcism of Emily Rose) directing, Jason Blum producing and Ethan Hawke in the lead role, Sinister seemed like a safe formula for a chilling horror flick. But Sinister delivers on a haunting atmosphere and twisted plot sequences to justify the film’s title.

Writer C. Robert Cargill says that his inspiration for the movie came from a nightmare he experienced after seeing The Ring, in which he discovered a film in his attic depicting the hanging of an entire family. This sets up the plot that effectively provides some of the eeriness of found footage (which was actually filmed on a Super 8 camera) with the structural integrity of a traditional film.

Sinister was filmed with a $3 million budget. First revealed at the SXSW festival in the United States, the film later premiered in the United Kingdom at the London FrightFest and in Spain at the Sitges Film Festival.

Hawke plays a true crime novelist who discovers a box of mysterious and disturbing home movies after moving into the house, where a family of four recently died in a horrific hanging. Using the tragedy as the basis for his new book, Hawke’s character finds himself as the next victim of a demonic figure named Bughuul. Like with many new original horror movies, there seems to be an obvious aim to create a film that opens the doors to sequels, prequels and spin-offs. And that’s obvious here in Sinister. 

Sinister tops the list for the most hauntingly disturbing opening to a horror movie. It opens with Super 8 footage depicting a family of four standing beneath a tree with hoods over their heads and nooses around their necks. An unseen figure saws through a branch acting as a counterweight, causing their deaths by hanging. There are five of these snuff films in this movie– and each one feels exactly like a surreal nightmare.

The film is far from faultless. Many of the cliches involving creepy children and typically illogical character behavior make an appearance in Sinister. Some might grow tired of the film’s structure, which relies heavily on partnering scenes of family drama with disturbing home videos.

Nevertheless, Sinister excels at creating a haunting atmosphere and an engaging demonic mythology in the form of Bughuul, whose mysterious portrayal makes it easy to look forward to the numerous sequels he’ll inevitably star in.

Sinister features enough uniquely terrifying scares to set it apart from other modern horror films. It successfully blends mystery, drama and horror in a way that will demand multiple viewings. And Sinister utilizes powerful acting and effective twists that climax into a deeply disturbing final act.

Sinister can be purchased cheaply on Amazon right here.

Barry Falls Jr
Barry was the managing editor of his university newspaper before contributing as a freelance content creator for Yahoo News and Esquire. He founded Horror Theory in 2014 to analyze horror films through a sociological lens.

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