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Released 5 October 2012
Director Scott Derrickson

Ethan Hawke, Vincent D'Onofrio, Juliet Rylance

Scott Derrickson, C. Rober Cargill

Jason Blum, Brian Kavanaugh-Jones
Origin United States
Running Time 110 minutes
Genre Horror, crime, thriller

All work and no play make this a dull film.

While its generic title doesn’t exactly give away too much, a quick glance through the credits of Sinister will give some idea of what to expect. Directed by Scott Derrickson (The Last Exorcism of Emily Rose) and produced by Jason Blum (Paranormal Activity, Insidious), Sinister fits neatly and unremarkably in with its producers’ back catalogue. It’s also not very good.

Sinister starts off well, if a little cliché ridden. Ellison Oswald (Ethan Hawke) is a true crime writer who hasn’t had a hit book in ten years. So he moves his family into the home where a brutal unsolved murder took place to immerse himself in the research for what he hopes will be the book to resurrect his career. In tow are a frustrated wife, and two suitably creepy kids.

In a twist on the “found footage” sub-genre, most of the film revolves around a homemade Super 8 recording of the killings, which Oswald finds in his attic. As Oswald gets closer to discovering the truth behind the footage and the murders, his obsession with the mystery grows and his grip on reality shrinks. Creepy things begin to happen.

While Oswald may seem like a character ripped straight out of a Stephen King novel, Hawke gives a very strong performance. The best parts of Sinister are his highly frictional chemistry with his wife, as she begins to question his fragile mental state.

The problems only set in later. While the tension is wonderfully set up early on the film (most of which takes place in one claustrophobic location), once the revelations start to kick in, Sinister totally loses any semblance of intelligence and descends into silliness. Subtlety is replaced by jump-out shocks that are more cringe-inducing than scary. The script leaves a lot of questions unanswered, and the answers it does give don’t exactly make a lot of sense. The less said about the deplorable ending the better.

It is a shameful waste of a great acting performance in a bad film. Overall Sinister is as forgettable as its bland title.

If you insist on going to see this film, do yourself a favour and walk out twenty minutes early. That way you’ll preserve the memory of Hawke’s brilliant performance and the skilfully developed tension early on, while your enjoyment won’t be sullied by the ridiculously bonkers final twist. Anything you can imagine in its place will doubtlessly be a lot better.

- Bernard O’Rourke