Sinister received some good reviews, although you get the feeling that these come from people who havent seen many horror films or have much of a grounding in the genre. As it kicks in, Sinister has a blandness to it a lack of interest in any texture or depth to the characters. Ethan Hawke almost always brings a film to life but here seems lumbered with an underwritten part and does the best he can. In terms of plot description and scenario, everything quickly fades into a blandness. Three months earlier, I saw The Apparition (2012) and The Possession (2012), two would-be horror films that were so utterly boring and generic that they blur together to the point that I now struggle to remember what detail belonged to which film. I suspect in three months time I will be saying the same thing about Sinister.
Where Sinister has it over both The Apparition and The Possession is that Scott Derrickson actually sets out to scare an audience. In fact, the film sometimes overburdens from the effort of his determination to do so a sleepwalking Michael Hall DAddario doing improbable things like hiding inside a box so that Derrickson can serve up the freakish image of him emerging out of it backwards but you cannot deny that he does produce the goods on a number of occasions. There is nothing particularly sophisticated about any of Derricksons scares but when you look at the abovementioned competition, a horror fan has to take it where they can get it. He manages to get some effective jumps in the spooky scene where Mr Boogies face initially suddenly turns inside a photo on Ethan Hawkes computer screen in the background; the appearance of the children backlit on the lawn while Ethan Hawke is distracted by a dog; Hawke saying goodnight to daughter Clare Foley unaware that she is cowering in fear at a ghost child hunkered down on the other side of the bed. Derrickson gets off one particularly good jump where a ghostly child face appears silently behind Ethan Hawkes shoulder while he searches the house although the effect is subsequently watered down by the rest of the scene where Derrickson has pop-up children moving in slow-motion behind Hawke wherever he goes. The film also catches your attention with the opening shot a piece of mocked-up Super 8 footage where we see a family strung up from a tree with nooses around their necks and a saw set up so that it cuts through the branch and hangs all of them.
On the other side of the coin, Sinister gets a fail mark when it comes to explanatory rationale. The film sets up a big mystery about the families in the houses being slaughtered every few years. This is the central mystery that Ethan Hawke supposedly investigates but interest in solving this soon peters out. You are not sure for a long time if you are watching a film about the mundane activities of a killer or a haunted house story as the film seems to wander off into being even then it is not clear who the ghost children are meant to be and how they are tied to the family killings. Even vaguer is the explanation that ties everything to the Babylonian deity Buughul who has been outfitted with a peculiarly improbable quirk of following and slaughtering families as they move from house to house every decade, something that seems there more at the scriptwriters whim than for a reason that would make any sense.
Scott Derrickson next went onto make Deliver Us From Evil (2014) based on the supposedly true-life account of a New York detective encountering demonic forces followed by the adaptation of Marvel Comics Doctor Strange (2016).
Jason Blum and his Blumhouse production company have produced a number of other genre films including:- Hamlet (2000), Paranormal Activity (2007) and sequels, Insidious (2010) and sequels, Tooth Fairy (2010), The Bay (2012), The Lords of Salem (2012), The River (tv series, 2012), Dark Skies (2013), Oculus (2013), The Purge (2013) and sequels, the tv mini-series Ascension (2014), Creep (2014), Jessabelle (2014), Mercy (2014), Mockingbird (2014), Not Safe for Work (2014), Ouija (2014) and sequel, 13 Sins (2014), The Town That Dreaded Sundown (2014), Unfriended/Cybernatural (2014), Area 51 (2015), The Boy Next Door (2015), Curve (2015), The Gallows (2015), The Gift (2015), Jem and the Holograms (2015), The Lazarus Effect (2015), Martyrs (2015), Visions (2015), The Visit (2015), The Darkness (2016), Hush (2016), Incarnate (2016), The Veil (2016), Viral (2016), Amityville: The Awakening (2017), Get Out (2017), Happy Death Day (2017), The Keeping Hours (2017), Split (2017) and Stephanie (2017).