Sinister (2012)
Directed by Scott Derrickson

Starring Clare Foley Ethan Hawke Fred Thompson James Ransone Juliet Rylance Michael Hall D'Addario

"Sinister" was a shining light in a darkness of bad horror movies, the best horror movie of 2012. Kind of a cross between "The Ring", "Saw", "The Shining", and "Insidious" it features its own attempt trademark-worthy killer -- dubbed "the Boogie Man" -- and a plot with a twist ending some of us could see coming from a mile away.

Ethan Hawke plays a once successful true crime writer who moves into a new home with his nuclear family after being warned not to by the local sheriff. We eventually learn that the reason he moved to town is that an unsolved murder took place there involving the massacre of another family -- with one of the children abducted, never to be heard from again. In fact, he's actually moved into the very same house where the murders took place, only hasn't told his wife that information yet.

He stumbles across a stash of 8mm snuff movies in the attic and, watching them, realizes they depict similar murders that have happened across the country over the decades, all of them involving families and creative deaths. Instead of turning over the films to police, he decides to keep them for himself -- and his upcoming bestseller on the subject.

As the story progresses, we learn that Hawke's author character is actually close to going broke and is desperate for a hit. He's also a non-recovering alcoholic.His children start to react wildly to life in their new home -- one child sleepwalks and turns up strange places due to night terrors. The other begins drawing strange paintings on the wall and claims to be speaking to a former resident of the house.

I don't want to spoil the rest.

Derrickson has certainly been involved with some very bad movies in the past, including "Urban Legends: Final Cut", a direct-to-video "Hellraiser" sequel, and he directed the horrible "Day the Earth Stood Still" remake. But he redeems himself writing and directing this Stephen King-esque murder mystery and ghost story. There are cheap scares aplenty, but "Sinister" does a good job of slowly ratcheting up its tension until it reaches a great, chilling climax.

All in all, a satisfying horror film that is helped by Hawke’s very strong performance and a great, understated score by Christopher Young. Like many, I hail it as the best horror film of 2012. That's true, but it was an easy win given how weak the genre was all year.

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-- Review by Lucius Gore

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