Skilful horror staring Ethan Hawke
The opening of Scott Derrickson’s horror certainly lives up to the title: Super 8 ‘snuff’ footage captures a family-of-four hanged until dead from a tree, its branch acting as a lever to pull at the nooses and raise them off the ground. It’s an unsettling start and it doesn’t get any lighter, as true crime writer Ellison Oswald (Ethan Hawke) moves into the house where this grim happening occurred, bringing his family with him, as he sets out to uncover the mystery behind these murders.
Things get creepier still when Ellison goes into the attic and discovers a box with five film canisters (containing the above mentioned tree-hanging and more besides). Boozing on whisky, increasingly estranged from his wife (Juliet Rylance), the author unravels faster than a ball of string. If we’re meant to think The Shining – and in its own way, this house is just as chilling as the Overlook Hotel – Derrickson never overplays the references.
While Hawke is particularly convincing as the obsessive writer who will stop at nothing, it’s the little touches that send shivers down the spine – the sighting of a scorpion in the attic; a ghostly face in the footage, suggesting a supernatural presence at play; even the emergence of Ellison’s sleepwalking son from a cardboard box (as if he were auditioning for Derrickson’s 2005 film The Exorcism Of Emily Rose).
Offering up an unusual twist on the ‘found footage’ films, not to mention the haunted house and ‘boogeyman’ movies that are regularly churned out by Hollywood, Sinister worms its way under your skin like a tick and refuses to let go. Perhaps it explains too much in what is a grisly finale, but this is both skilful and scary; as such, it’s one of the best horrors you will see this year.
General release from Fri 5 Oct.