Movie Marathon #17: Sinister

by thethreepennyguignol

Now, I write quite a lot. Hence, I enjoy movies and books about writers. True, most of the time they make the lot of us seem like a ragtag group of garrulous scum, but nonetheless, it’s always fun to see how various people produce their own interpretations of what the glamorous and brilliant lives of writers are actually like.

And that’s what eventually turned me onto the Scott Derickson flick Sinister. Following the tale of writer Ethan Hawke trying to write a follow-up to his hugely successful true-crime novel by shifting his family across the country to live in a house that was initially home to a grisly murder.

Personally, and judging by the conversations I’ve had with other people who write lot, there’s a similar experience most of us have had. At one time, you write something you’re inordinately proud of; an idea so brilliant, so well-articulated, so utterly perfect that you can simply never top it-but you’ll spend years trying to do exactly that. And that’s entirely what Sinister is based around.

There’s an incredibly well put-together scene in Sinister where Ethan Hawke first encounters real evidence of some majorly unsettling events taking place in his new home. His immediate reaction is to phone the police and, as he does so, he paces around his office, coming face-to-face with a stack of copies of his last book. He’s presented here with a choice; take his family and run like hell, or have one last grab at the fame, fortune and respect he always dreamed of as an author. And what does he choose? Like any writer, he dobs in safety and sanity to chase after one more hit. It’s brilliant; Hawke’s writer isn’t a terrible man, but he makes some awful choices based on what he thought would lead him to his Capote-level discovery.

Aside from that, I think it’s a generally solid horror film; unrelentingly tense, very disturbing, and completely compelling. It owes a huge and obvious debt to Stephen King-the rural setting, the family in peril, the author as a lead character-but that works in it’s favour rather than against, as the straightforward and classical stylings of the plot work to elevate it above overly complicated fear fodder like Insidious.

Overall, it’s a film I have particular affection for because I like the character it follows and the genuinely fear-inducing scary bits. It might not be the best horror film ever made, but compared to a lot of the dreck currently being churned out in the name of fear, it’s a very tight piece of cinema.