How awful are movie trailers? SO FUCKING AWFUL! I think the only trailers last year that made me excited for a movie that didn’t actually give away any details of the plot were the trailers for Prometheus and for The Dark Knight Rises. Based on some of the images that were released of Sinister and the early, positive reviews I was hearing for it got me excited to see it. I didn’t want to watch any of the trailer because I had already made up my mind on going to see it, so what was the trailer going to do for me? NOTHING. IT WAS GOING TO DO NOTHING. I had to avoid the trailer at every turn, close browser windows, change the channel, do everything I could to avoid seeing any glimpse of what the movie was going to be about. A few days before Sinister was being released, I went with my friend Wolf Arms and Muscle Man to go see Dredd 3D. Did you guys see that movie? It was pretty awesome. It was basically The Raid: Redemption but in slow motion and with guns instead of kick fighting. Anyways, I was sitting in the theater and getting super pumped up by telling jokes with my friends, when all of a sudden, the trailer for Sinister comes on. I’ve seen a lot of movie trailers before, especially for horror films, and I have to say that the trailer for Sinister was absolutely AWFUL. IT WAS DOGSHIT. The trailer might have felt especially bad because I had heard so many positive things about the movie from advance screenings, that when I saw the trailer and thought “THAT is supposed to be GOOD?!”, my mind was just blown. Since so many of the reviews of the movie were polarizing, I figured I’d set my standards low to see how far this movie could surpass them. This review will contain spoilers, but it’s been out for months now, so there’s really no reason to get mad at me for “spoiling” anything.
“HEY YOU, DOWN IN FRONT. OUT OF THE FUCKING WAY, DAYBREAKER.”
The film opens with super 8 footage of four people standing around a tree with nooses around their necks while wearing hoods. We see a tree branch fall, which is tied to the nooses, so the four people are killed. We then see true crime author Ellison Oswalt (Ethan Hawke) moving into a house, which he claims is the only one his family could afford. A bonus for him is that this is the home where those four people were hung, so he hopes to channel that energy into writing his new book about these unsolved murders. In the attic, Oswalt finds a few reels of super 8 which he obviously is going to watch alone at night while drinking. Each reel of footage depicts a different series of murders, features a symbol written on something shown in the movie, and they all show a glimpse of some weird figure who looks like he should be in a Norwegian black metal band. Luckily there’s a local sheriff who is willing to help out Oswalt figure out what’s going on, so the deputy puts him in contact with occult symbol expert Vincent D’Onofrio. Well, a character played by D’Onofrio, but I just wish he played himself. The symbol represents a demon called “Bughuul”, who eats children or whatever. Oh yeah, in addition to the symbol in all the murders, each case involved one child of each family disappearing. Eventually the connection is drawn that each murder has been of a family who used to live where one of the murders took place, and the murder was carried out by the missing kid! Does that make sense? Family A was murdered by a little kid, so Family B moves into that house. Family B moves to a different house, and is then murdered by the missing child from Family A at their new house. Family C moves into Family B’s house and–I think you get the picture. Anyways, since Oswalt’s was getting the heebie jeebies, he’s already moved out, so his daughter kills him and the rest of his family so that the cycle can continue. DO I SMELL SEQUEL?!?!?!?
Maybe they never explain the significance of the little kid having night terrors, but what I’m more concerned with is the strength of this cardboard box! Where can I get a box that won’t crumple under the weight of me doing gymnastics in it?!
Was anyone else constantly comparing this to other movies made in the past 10 years to see how it was combining elements from all of them? With the whole “demon creating footage” thing, or at least the frequent use of home video, and the demon/curse following people felt really similar to The Ring. The whole look of the demon felt like it was a direct ripoff of Insidious. The drawings of former victims by a little kid reminded me a lot of The Others. The frequent appearances of little kid ghosts felt like basically all movies involving little kid ghosts. Maybe it’s just that those movies had a much larger impact on me than this film did that it felt like it was just a potpourri of horror movie tropes, but strangely, I’m not citing that as a negative. Rather than feeling like this movie “stole” all of those concepts, it felt like it was just borrowing those elements. What I mean is that although I would sit there thinking “Oh, this is just like The Ring,” the movie would then switch gears and go in a different direction. AM I MAKING ANY SENSE?! Shit, I hope so. It’s like the filmmakers took some of the successful elements of movies from the past year, threw them in a bag, and randomly picked out enough to get a script together. And considering that the screenwriter said that the main character’s name was based on author Harlan Ellison and comedian Patton Oswalt, it wouldn’t be surprising to learn he intentionally combined different elements he liked from different stories.
On vocals? We’ve got Bughuul. On drums? That red-faced guy from Insidious. The rest of the bands will probably just be those dudes from Immortal.
Although I’ve heard polarizing opinions on people loving or hating this movie, I never really took the time to read any of the reasons why people felt the way they did about it. That being said, I’m sure that everybody’s got a point! Short review is that it did some things very well, and it did other things terribly. It seemed like for every good thing they did, there was something incredibly stupid that had to be done as well. The opening sequence that I described was super creepy to me and I thought it was really effective, especially because you never really see what caused the branch to fall. On the other hand, there’s a scene in which Ethan Hawke’s character gets the footage onto his computer and freeze frames Bughuul and when he looks away, Bughuul looks out at the audience, but turns back just in time for Ethan Hawke not to notice. HOLY SHIT WAS THAT DUMB. Other than that, the other glimpses of Bughuul were pretty creepy, so it had that going for it, but then there was footage of Oswalt exploring his attic and falling through it to the floor beneath and you saw stupid little kid hands pulling him down. The “mythology” of this Bughuul guy was different from what we’ve seen in some other films, but to cancel that out, why the fuck do all these demons just wear facepaint like they’re in fucking nu-metal bands? Goddammit, why couldn’t they have made up their mind and either only included the shitty parts or only included those good parts? Ultimately, there are a lot of creepy moments that make this movie pretty scary, but a big problem I have is the plot point of a ghost providing this footage to a human, as well as providing the fucking “director’s cut” endings. Yes, you read that right, the ghost provides Ethan Hawke with “extended endings” to each of the super 8 films he watches. Even after he burns all the original films he found, there’s a box that finds its way to another one of his homes, this time including an envelope with more footage that actually shows the children at the end of each series of murders. No amount of spooks, in my opinion, can make up for how stupid that is.
Wolfman Moon Scale