As nice as it is to watch horror movies at home when October roles around, the past few years have not been so kind to theaters. With four releases taking on the darker tones we’d expect, not all of them have been slam dunks (Hotel Transylvania) and the last one (Paranormal Activity 4) will probably be the lamest of the bunch. While Frankenweenie may reign critically supreme, Sinister gives it a good shot for at least 80 minutes or so. Until the big reveal starts to ruin everything. Then the film proceeds to get dumber as it ambles along to the finale that tries way too hard to live up to its title.
In Pennsylvania, Ellison (Ethan Hawke) is transplanting his family to write his latest true-crime venture. His wife, Tracy (Juliet Rylance), just wants to be reassured that they aren’t living two doors away from another crime scene; son Trevor (Michael Hall D’Addario), wants to know the gory details before he’s bullied at school; and daughter Ashley (Clare Foley), wants to move back to their real home and forces Ellison to swear they will if his latest novel doesn’t work out. In the attic, Ellison finds a strange box full of Super 8 films featuring standard family outings with attached grisly endings of the families being murdered. Soon enough, Ellison hears bumps in the night, Trevor starts having night terrors, and a creepy-faced man starts appearing in each of the films.
If you can’t guess how everything is going to play out, you’ve obviously never seen a horror movie before — or any movie for that matter. Director Scott Derrickson (2008’s The Day the Earth Stood Still remake, The Exorcism of Emily Rose) does keep things (co-written by C. Robert Cargill) moving along for at least the first two thirds. But by the time the denouement starts to kick in, it all falls apart and gets dumber by the minute. The film had been sitting at 100% on Rotten Tomatoes for weeks, but has since been steadily falling as more reviews are published — and for good reason. Touting itself from “The Producer of Paranormal Activity and Insidious,” you’re better off staying home watching the latter. Sometimes a bad ending can completely ruin everything (ala the original Paranormal Activity) but in this case, at least Sinister has a few disturbing tricks up its sleeve before it reveals it’s all a big bluff.
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