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"Once you see him, nothing can save you."
Rated: R/15
US Box Office Revenue: $39,787,029
International Box Office Revenue: $14,444,836

Director– Scott Derrickson
Scott Derrickson (Screenplay)
C. Robert Cargill (Story)


Ethan Hawke – Ellison Oswalt
Juliet Rylance – Tracy Oswalt
Michael Hall D’Addario – Trevor Oswalt
Clare Foley – Ashley Oswalt

8 Pies

Reviewed by Limey

Plot Summary

A true crime writer, desperate for a hit ten years after the book that made his name, moves his family into a new home in order to investigate a mysterious murder. Once there, he soon finds himself drawn closer to events than he ever wanted to be.


I must confess to being somewhat out of touch with, well, pretty much everything this year, horror films included. Sinister could have been a hot topic online these last few months, either as an eagerly awaited release or a picture everyone expected to be disappointing; maybe neither - maybe it escaped everyone’s radar.

All I know is that it slipped by mine until I saw the trailer on television. I also know that it is a very rare trailer indeed that manages to sell me on a movie like this one did. That it starred Ethan Hawke, one of my favourite actors, certainly helped it grab my attention, but it was more than that. Something about it gave me a good feeling.

So having made a day of it, going out with my brother for lunch and then hitting the cinema, was my faith rewarded? Amazingly, it was; in fact, Sinister actually managed to exceed my expectations. Don’t get me wrong, it doesn’t do anything new. There is nothing here a seasoned genre fan won’t have seen before. So why exactly was I so impressed when I walked out of the cinema?

Put simply, while it may not do anything new, what it does do it does well - very well – and that is all any film should strive for. Pushing boundaries is a noble pursuit but it is far more important to make sure that whatever it is you’re trying to do, you can do well. Sinister does that.


Ellison Oswalt – I have never been on to something this big before.

Ashley Oswalt – Don’t worry Daddy… I’ll make you famous again.


Originality: ½ Pie

At its core, this is a haunted house film; and honestly, everything you can do within that framework has already been done. To have any chance at making a compelling movie, filmmakers working in that mould today need to decide which features are necessary for their story and how to make those features work for them. Those developing Sinister found their own unique spin on things.


Spook Factor: 1 Pie

I’m not in the least bit embarrassed to admit to being spooked by this movie. In fact, whatever else we may love about the genre, I believe that deep down any true horror fan wants nothing more than for a film to successfully give them the shivers or to make them jump, without resorting to cheap boo scares. This movie, with its relentless atmosphere, did it for me.


Antagonist: ¾ Pie

This is a difficult one. The antagonist, taken alone, is one of the things you will have seen before. The origins and motives may be a little different but it will feel familiar to most, if not all of you. Despite that, because of the way the writing and direction present the threat, it is still effective and yes, scary. How the antagonist actually fulfils his desires is particularly unsettling.


Story: ½ Pie

See, with Antagonist there was a part of me that wondered if I was rating it a ¼ Pie too highly; here that same voice thinks I’m rating the Story a ¼ Pie too low. Thing is, while the story does exactly what it needs to do and never feels anything less than satisfying, it is still fairly simplistic so the score has to reflect that.


Acting: 1 Pie

Now this one was easy. The acting is top notch throughout. Yes, Ethan Hawke is one of my favourite actors but like any actor you care to name he has turned in a few less than stellar performances in the past. No such concerns here – he was on point from start to finish and ably supported by the entire cast. There are a few non-speaking parts in the final act that could have been stronger but I personally don't think it would be fair to be too critical. They didn't spoil the film.


Directing: 1 Pie

Just like the actors in his charge, Scott Derrickson was at the top of his game. As I mentioned earlier on, there is a palpable atmosphere from the moment the film begins to the moment the credits run. The opening scene is hugely powerful and sets the tone for the rest of the movie. He never loses his grip on the material or lets the mood slip and knows exactly when and how to reach out and grab the audience. Even what could be cheap boos here are done with real style – over the shoulder, anyone?


Soundtrack: 1 Pie

A genuinely good score doesn't just underpin what is happening on the screen but elevates it. The Sinister soundtrack by Christopher Young does just that and does so masterfully. The scenes where our protagonist discovers the events of the past wouldn't be anything like as powerful without this score.


Special Effects: ½ Pie

Not much call for it really. The practical effects are done with class and there are the occasional moments that require some computer wizardry but nothing mind blowing, because the picture they were making simply didn't need it.


Gore: ¾ Pie

You don't see much ‘gore' but the deaths depicted are actually far more upsetting and effective than any straight gore could ever hope to be. There is a substantial amount of blood at one point in proceedings but again, it is given its power by knowing where the blood came from rather than what you see.


Replay, Rewatch, Rewind: 1 Pie

No question, as soon it hits the shops it'll be off their shelves and on to mine, with a brief pit stop at my DVD player along the way. I wouldn't recommend watching it over and over, as I imagine that may diminish it after a while, but it will most definitely sit at the top of the pile.



For someone as… not exactly jaded but experienced with the horror genre as me, there can be no bigger positive than actually being absorbed and unnerved by a horror picture. It doesn't happen often – heck, the poster touts Paranormal Activity and Insidious, both of which bored me – so you have to relish it when it does.


All I can think of is that, stripped down, it really is just the same film you've seen several times before; but then what story, film or otherwise, horror or otherwise, doesn't suffer from that same issue at this point in time?


Final Word

What more can I say at this point? If you are looking for intelligent, genuinely chilling and well crafted horror, that doesn’t appeal to the lower common denominator, insult your intelligence, or rely on the cheap and nasty; this is the picture for you. It is a solidly made film that refuses to give you a chance to breathe. Watch it.

Oh my god…

©2012, 2008-2011 Yank-Lime Pie. All rights reserved.