It’s that time of the year again when modern or old “classics” of the horror genre are scrutinized to see if they’re scary enough to prepare for the witching hour. So what better way to start this weekly scream and terror special than with both Sinister movies?
(USA 2012, director: Scott Derrickson)
True crime novelist Ellison Oswalt moves into a house where a family murder occurred and finds a box of Super 8 home videos that bring him close to a bizarre series of home-made killings.
Sometimes the most effective horror movies are those that make good use of an unsettling soundtrack, timed shock sequences and a story that slowly unravels its mysteries while drawing the audience in and tightening its grip around their throats. All this can be found here, although the movie certainly isn’t for everyone.
The pacing is rather slow and some of the dialogue scenes can be a bit too much family drama. It’s also difficult to find an emotional connection to the other family members, as the focus is on the father who tries to solve the mysteries without realizing that he becomes more obsessed with his work. It’s not very original, but the simple story is enough to create an atmosphere of constant unrest and paranoia. As in any good detective story, the audience finds more and more clues that lead to a surprising conclusion.
What makes the movie so special and downright terrifying is how it builds tension and ultimately sleep-depriving terror with its use of disturbing music that consists of strange distorted noises and voices. The home videos are also very difficult to watch in their depiction of murders. All sorts of horrible deaths are shown, but only for a brief time, while sudden appearances of faces and jump scares with things falling down further make this one of those few movies that I found hard to sleep after. There might not be much of character or plot development, and the ending is certainly not to everyone’s taste, but as a modern horror movie that mixes haunted house, boogeyman and found footage themes, it’s original and memorable.
(USA 2015, director: Ciarán Foy)
Former deputy So & So who helped out in the first series of murders meets a young mother with her two sons finding refuge in a farm house that soon becomes a scene of home video crimes.
Sequels to movies that offer surprising twists or a unique presentation always suffer from either over-familiarity or alienation, depending on the director’s approach. Unfortunately, Sinister 2 tries both and fails, without providing the scares and interesting story development that made the original so good. Jump scares are all well and good, but if they happen too frequently or are predictable, they’re just cheap and annoying. While the home video murders are disturbing, they’re only more violent and creative rather than shocking. Showing them in detail also feels gratuitous, as in a slasher movie.
And this is exactly where the movie ends up. If it wasn’t for the title and connection to the supernatural being (which has too much screen time and isn’t scary in the least), one could easily mistake it for a Children of the Corn rip-off where kids try to kill adults. It’s simply not scary enough, and for a slasher movie, there are just too many drama dialogues that desperately try to make the audience feel for the characters. It doesn’t work, though, as the idea of a mistreated wife who tries to escape her violent husband has no place here and treads TV melodrama rather than psychological horror.
It’s not all bad, with some rather inventive use of the spiritual and real world and bloody nightmare sequences, but there’s too much downtime without any memorable characters or scenes that stay in the mind for too long. The first movie wasn’t groundbreaking in its story, but it was disturbing enough to prevent the audience from going to sleep. The second one is the opposite, as it feels more like a lullaby with loud noises and scary faces thrown in as a wake-up call.
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