Sinister REVIEW

Sinister DVD review: Snuff and nonsense.

Ethan Hawke in Sinister.

He immediately regretted watching the reel marked “Mum and Dad, honeymoon”.

Release Date: 11 February 2013
2012 | 15 | 103 minutes | £17.99 (DVD)/£19.99 (Blu-ray)
Director: Scott Derrickson
Cast: Ethan Hawke, Juliet Rylance, Clare Foley, Michael Hall D’Addario, Fred Thompson, James Ransone, Vincent D’Onofrio

Early on in this hit-and-miss horror, Ethan Hawke’s character underlines the important questions the audience should be asking themselves in a manner that’s so unsubtle it warrants a hearty guffaw: he simply writes them on a notepad in giant block capitals. WHO MADE THE FILM? WHERE’S STEPHANIE?

Sadly, he doesn’t go on to jot down the posers equally likely to be at the forefront of the viewer’s mind. WHY DO I ONLY WATCH SPOOKY SNUFF MOVIES LATE AT NIGHT? WHO TOLD ME I LOOK GOOD IN THIS CHUNKY-KNIT CARDIGAN? WHAT THE HELL ARE REGIONALS? WHAT’S UP WITH BUTTONS? (That’s enough Community references – Ed)

Hawke plays Ellison Oswalt, a selfish true crime writer whose career is on the slide. So desperate is he for another hit that, in the interests of research, he moves his family into a house whose previous inhabitants were strung up from a tree in the garden – well, all but a little girl, the aforementioned Stephanie. That atrocity is, it turns out just one of a series stretching back to the ‘60s, all involving missing kids, all documented on Super 8 reels which Oswalt conveniently finds in a box in the attic. Yes, it’s a film about found footage – although not a found-footage film.

Those movies are by far the best thing about Sinister; they’re just so imaginatively horrible, particularly one involving some nocturnal lawnmowing. Equally effective is the supernatural entity that can be glimpsed in them – half clown, half wraith.

Unfortunately, while the snuff movies and the boogeyman are supremely chilling, much of the rest of the film is disappointingly trite. There’s too much reliance on the same old rote scares – sinister creaks and bangs, a figure flashing past the camera, faces suddenly dropping into shot – and certain sequences (like a game of hide and seek with some ghostly kids) come across as silly instead of scary. As for those key questions? IT’S BLEEDIN’ OBVIOUS.


Director Scott Derrickson provides one commentary; co-writer C Robert Cargill joins him for a second. There are two middling “real-life” featurettes: the first quizzes various true crime writers about their profession (nine minutes); the second visits a murder house which is now a tourist attraction (11 minutes). You also get a promo bit in which some renta-academic measures the fear levels of volunteers as they watch a screening, and the trailer.

Ian Berriman

For an alternate perspective, read our Sinister review from the theatrical release.
Watch the Sinister trailer.
Read more of our DVD reviews.

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