Sinister: when the supernatural spoils the horror

Over the past decade we have seen several good horror movies that have brought the genre back from an era of boredom and endless sequels. The Babadook and It Follows received worldwide praise, and this year Get Out became a huge success with its interesting focus on racism. But there was a movie 5 years ago that I consider could have been praised as another great film and only got halfway there. I’m talking about the movie “Sinister”. If you haven’t seen it, I must warn you this post will include spoilers.

Sinister starts, as many other movies, with a family moving into a house that has a scary past. In this case, some murders have been committed in the house and our protagonist (Ethan Hawke) is a writer who wants to write a book about the case. But as he progresses he founds some old films portraying the murdered families, and his children start to feel affected by the disturbing mood surrounding the house.

During this first half of the movie we have a lot of very scary moments, but the fear comes from the way the camera moves, from the reactions the characters have, and from the environment as a whole. They aren’t cheap jump-scares, and they don’t need ghosts or other monsters appearing into the story to make us feel uneasy. At this point, the whole mystery can be explained without any supernatural beings, and the movie works perfectly.

But eventually the story forfeits this realistic and subtle tone, to go straight into the ghost tale. Now don’t get me wrong, the movie still provides a few good scares, but they are the kind that we have seen before, many times. They are mostly the old jump scares that many movies with supernatural killers have displayed for decades. Well executed, but not original at all.

sinister

Though I must admit the poster looks really good

It’s impossible not to think of Sinister as a wasted opportunity. That first half had a lot of potential, and I could clearly see a type of story that we don’t see enough in the horror genre, one that doesn’t require ghosts or monsters to keep us scared. But unfortunately that promising start didn’t get fully developed in the original direction. Sinister is still a more than decent horror film, but I can’t stop thinking that it could have been so much better.

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