Sinister Review (Kirk Haviland)

Photo courtesy of Alliance Films

Sinister (2012)

Starring Ethan Hawke, Juliet Rylance, Michael Hall D’Addario, Clare Foley, Fred Dalton Thompson and James Ransone

Written by C. Robert Cargill and Scott Derrickson

Directed by Scott Derrickson

In theaters this weekend from Alliance Films, just in time for Halloween, we get the newest horror title from director Scott Derrickson, the director of the Exorcism of Emily Rose. With the mainly lackluster theatrical year we have had to date for the horror genre, Cabin in the Woods withstanding, the real question is can Sinister deliver where others this year have failed? And can one of us, online film Critic C. Robert Cargill, aka Ain’t it Cool News’ Massawrym, really write a film that lives up to the hype?

Ten years ago, true crime writer Ellison Oswald (Hawke) made his reputation with a best‐selling novel based on a notorious murder. Now, desperate to replicate the critical and financial success of that book, he moves his loyal wife (Rylance), none too happy son (D’Addario) and daughter (Foley) into a home where a suburban family was brutally executed and a child disappeared. Not telling his family of the home’s past, hoping to find inspiration in the crime scene, Ellison discovers a mysterious box containing Super 8 footage of a series of murders, including the ones from the house. Rather than going to the local authorities and reporting the find, he keeps the movies to himself and takes on an unassuming Sherriff’s Deputy (Ransone) to unwittingly do his research, hoping to publish another acclaimed book based on these series of crimes. As Ellison starts to piece together the truth behind the horrific images on the films, unseen intruders and inexplicable goings‐on disrupt his once peaceful household.

Photo courtesy of Alliance Films

Sinister works because it focuses less on simply staging a line of jump scare tactics, and more on building tension while never hitting the release valve. The script is smart and tight, although it’s not entirely original in that it uses and falls prey to some of the most obvious of horror conventions, but it also uses them more effectively than most. Ethan Hawke does some very solid work here, the level of paranoia involved with his performance adds to the building sense of dread surrounding the family in the film. The rest of the cast does admirable work as well, the child actors in particular show they can hold their own amidst the veteran actors. Ransone’s deputy may have been the hapless goofball in any other film, but he and the script give the character some surprising depth and even a more level head than the deteriorating Oswald can muster.

The score is brilliant and unnerving, building layer upon layer as the film progresses and tensing up the audience as it goes along. Director Derrickson proves that he may be best suited for genre pieces as this is a giant step forward from the abysmal Day the Earth Stood Still remake. Sinister is far from perfect mind you. Can Oswald please stop bumbling around in the dark and just turn on a light? And seriously, does every character here sleep like they are dead? You figure with the crashing, falling and multitude of other actions going on in the house somebody else in the family would wake up. But taking the good with the bad the film is still miles above most of the genre fare we have seen in multiplexes this year. The villain of the piece could have been an awful campy nightmare, but instead it works brilliantly. My only qualm is with the last shot of the film, when the film has already been wrapped up nicely, we get what appears to be an unnecessary studio addition. Also we get a way too brief appearance from an un-billed star that I will not mention other than to say I wish it was much longer.

Photo courtesy of Alliance Films

Sinister is successful because of its ability to develop and sustain atmosphere and tension for its almost tw hour running time, a feat in its own with the amount of 85/95 minute disposable genre films we are subject to most of the time. Sinister is a very solid recommend, go out and see it this weekend.

Till Next Time,

Movie Junkie TO

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ChickFlicking – People Like Us Review (Nadia Sandhu)

People Like Us

Starring Chris Pine, Elizabeth Banks, Michael Hall D’Addario, and Michelle Pfeiffer

Directed by Alex Kurtzman

The first thing I noticed when I saw the trailer for “People Like Us” was the amazing chemistry between Chris Pine and Elizabeth Banks, which would be great if this was a rom-com, but it isn’t.  This is a film about siblings – a brother and a sister, only she doesn’t know they are related.

Now that I have seen the film, I’m sorry to tell you that this ick factor apparently wasn’t unintentional- seems the entire plot hinges on Sam (Chris Pine) not revealing to Frankie (Elizabeth Banks) that he is her half-brother.  Instead we spend fully half the movie in standard rom-com mode with Sam meeting and charming not only Frankie, but her young son Josh (Michael Hall D’Addario) too.

The film is written by director Alex Kurtzman and writing partner Roberto Orci – better known for their work on Transformers, Cowboys vs. Aliens, and the Star Trek reboot.  The plot was apparently inspired by events in their own lives, and they don’t do too badly with the emotional authenticity.  The main problem lies in the plotting and what appear to be two entirely different films mashed into one narrative.

Sam is a slick “barter” salesman whose wheeling and dealings have taken a wrong turn with the loss of a shipment of boxed soup whose cheap transportation arrangements did not include refrigeration. With a boss expecting him to make up for the financial loss by buying the client a new house extension and the FDA investigating, Sam gets a call from his Mother (Michelle Pfeiffer is playing older mom’s now!!!) – his father has died. When Sam finally shows up after the funeral, he finds out that his cold distant music producer father has left him his vinyl collection, and entrusted him with a shaving kit full of money for a sister he didn’t know he had.

It would appear that Kurtzman and Orci felt the film would be over if Sam revealed his relationship to recovering alcoholic Frankie.  So instead he leads her on.  As you do.  Our writers clearly couldn’t imagine any other ways that this film could play out, and that is the real shame here.  This could have been a Cameron Crow film about a son coming to terms with his family dynamics, or it could have been a really good rom-com.  Instead it is overlong, with a maternal subplot suddenly tacked on at the end, shifting the tone and focus of the story and needlessly dragging the ending on.

BTW Olivia Wilde is in this film, not that you would know it from the marketing.  A sign of how fast her star has fallen in just one year.

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