Sinister isn’t the smartest horror film, but how many horror films can you honestly call smart? Only a few come to mind, and I’ll tell you right now Sinister isn’t Cabin in the Woods. What it does manage to do is set an ominous, unsettling horror mood better than any film I’ve seen in a while.
By now you probably know the premise. The trailer painted a clear picture: a writer (Ethan Hawke) moves to a new house to investigate and write his next great crime novel, but finds a pile of film reels in the attic that reveal a demonic presence. As he watches the reels, each showcasing a violent murder with a clever name, the creepy elements in the real world ramp up.
It’s a stock horror tale, and while it has its fair share of twists and turns, it’s pretty typical for this sort of fare. Characters make decisions you may not agree with, and not every loose end gets the conclusion you may hope for.
That’s not really important, though. What is important is that if you turn out the lights, crank up the volume, and soak in the atmosphere, Sinister is phenomenal. The soundtrack, sound effects, and lighting are top shelf. The mood is some of the best I’ve seen in a horror film. The film reels are genuinely creepy, and lend Sinister an exciting pace, as you look forward to each one.
Just as a comedy can be dumb as long as it’s funny, Sinister is a shining example of how little the context matters if a horror movie can manage the most basic of goals. It’s only in hindsight that the film’s less logical aspects come to light. Aesthetics can go a long way towards masking a film’s issues, and honestly Sinister’s issues are irrelevant.
Could Sinister be better? Sure, most films can. Does it accomplish its artistic goals? More than most horror films could say.