With the talent behind Sinister, you would think it might be a decent horror film. Ethan Hawke’s a talented actor, and both Vincent D’Onofrio and Fred Thompson make appearances. Writer/Director Scott Derrickson‘s done good work on past projects. This should have been good.
The lack of an actual antagonist that the protagonist could go up against was a major factor in what went wrong with this movie. Was the antagonist Mr. Boogie? The snuff films? The ghost children? There was no way to tell, because none of them actually did anything. Up until the very end, the protagonist was his own enemy: moving his family to a house where murders occurred and not telling his wife about the house’s history, his drinking, his hiding of the snuff films rather than contacting the police, his ego. He was both the bad guy and not the bad guy, and the movie suffered from this muddling of a crucial, fundamental story element.
Deputy So-and-So was extremely funny, too much so. His lines and delivery were too clever, and I found myself hoping to see more of him than anyone else. That’s not good in a horror film that isn’t intended to be comedy.
Fred Thompson and Vincent D’Onofrio were great, the way they always are, but criminally underused. It’s possible that the budget only permitted short scenes with them, which is a terrible shame. Why have them at all if you’re not going to let them steal the show?
The kid with the night terrors added very little to story or scares. As a red herring, he was kind of a waste of time. Too old to feel bad for (except at the very end) and too young to affect the film’s outcome, he should’ve been edited out.
Mrs. Protagonist told the protagonist that she didn’t want things to “go sour” this time like they did when he was working on a previous book, but we don’t know what the protagonist did back then to make the conflict meaningful. Did he go on all-night drinking binges? Hit the kids? Throw sauerkraut around the house? Who knows? We know he isn’t hallucinating due to alcohol consumption because we were seeing the ghosts, too.
The method of Mr. Boogie’s murders was pretty disturbing, but without some really graphic, horrific violence on screen, they wound up as tame events projected onto a bed sheet.
Your time is better spent watching something else for 110 minutes. Two stars out of five.