Being a one-hit-wonder hurts, especially for Ellison Oswalt. Years after the success of his Capote-like true crime hit, “Kentucky Blood,” the writer, played by Ethan Hawke, takes his unwitting wife and children to live in a murder house, seeking the story that he believes will be a saving grace for his family. When he ventures to the attic, he uncovers a box of Super 8mm film recordings showcasing scenes from a gruesome series of ritualistic murders and child abductions. Thereafter, we see Oswalt crumble mentally, take up some alleviating liquor swilling, and eventually unravel the juicy story he was chasing from the start. But just like a bad dream, the author cannot remove himself from the nightmarish and (dare I say) sinister forces barraging him and his family.
This concept may seem a bit familiar to you. Sinister is a Frankenstein-like, mixed-breed that slabs together bits and pieces of the horror master class. Oswalt is eerily similar to Jack Torrance in Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining in profession and experience. Both characters undergo a suspenseful mental collapse when trying to write their next hit book. These exasperated men find themselves in a tug-of-war between their personal (and increasingly) twisted sense of the world and the attempt to maintain a family life. We also see the influence of films like Blair Witch Project in the (occasional) use of “found foot¬age” exposition.
It comes, then, as no surprise that the man behind the Paranormal Activity franchise and Insidious, Jason Blum, produced this film. In an attempt to step back from a full “found footage” film, Blum, with Scott Derickson (The Exorcism of Emily Rose) at the directing helm and have managed to make a film that narrowly misses its target. The creepiest moments are largely seen in the films trailer and the plot becomes very predictable. Commendable acting by Hawke and onscreen wife Tracy, played by Juliet Rylance, is stifled by a somewhat rushed ending that invalidates many of the long term struggles the family of characters endure.
Sinister is ultimately just a look througha horror pinhole: its conflicts are unjustified and small as a means to the end goal of scar¬ingan audience. It remains to be seen if this film will leave a mark at all the horror genre. Akin to Oswalt, Blumnow must scale up to his prior successes. After all, beinga one-hit-wonder hurts. Verdict: 6/10