Wednesday, 20 February 2013

SINISTER - BluRay and DVD Review By Greg Klymkiw

SINISTER occasionally feels familiar, but it's superbly directed. Following a down-on-his-luck alcoholic crime writer as he squares off with demons, the real kind as well as those haunting his psyche, indeed makes for one scary movie. As our hero's self-worth dwindles amidst supernatural shocks and an abundance of creepy psychological shivers, one wishes the script was up to the director's flourishes.

Sinister (2012) *** dir. Scott Derrickson
Starring: Ethan Hawke, Juliet Rylance, Fred Dalton Thompson, James Ransone, Michael Hall D'Addario, Clare Foley

Review By Greg Klymkiw

Let's say you have this annoying habit of continually moving your family near sites of horrendous, violent crimes so you can more accurately write your true crime tomes. Given how disturbing this is to those you love, promises are made to the wife and kids that it won't happen again.

But old habits die hard.

So whaddya do? You go and move your family right smack dab INTO a house where something very, very evil once transpired. You don't tell them and hope, living in a small town, that they'll never find out.

Are you really that stupid? Or is it the screenplay that's a tad bereft of grey matter? Whichever one it is, there's no denying you're a sick puppy and someone's going to pay for your boneheadedness (or the script's).

You are, however, a writer fallen on hard times AND an alcoholic. Your actions are ultimately understandable. You want to recapture your former glory. You're sure this foul crime can be solved and that you're the man to do it. You want to listen to your wife's pleas that you give up writing and get a "real job", but you're an artist (of sorts) and you simply can't.

You need to get your mojo back.

Besides, if you didn't do what you just did, there wouldn't be a movie called Sinister which, in spite of the familiar and/or plot-hole-ridden script, still manages to be of the creepiest pictures of the year.

Why? Well, first and foremost, the central character is portrayed by the terrific Ethan Hawke, an actor who is becoming so much better with the ravages of time. Now at an age betraying some hard miles, Hawke is becoming the ultimate handsome, but grizzled anti-hero a la 70s actors who took all those wrong forks in the road to be part of a narrative fraught with urgency, desperation and a doomed, compulsively watchable quality. In fact, we pretty much guess where the writer and his family's going to end up, but it matters not - it's the ride that counts.

And yes, Sinister is a generally satisfying ride. Once Hawke and his family settle into the troubled domicile, it doesn't take long for bad shit to start happening. Especially creepy are the ancient A/V materials that keep mysteriously appearing - 8mm film reels and a projector.

What's on the reels is abominable.

Hawke can't get enough of watching the horrific images. Night after night, he belts back gallons of booze and sit transfixed as a series of violent deaths are unspooled. Alas, if any of his kids watch these images, the consequences will be dire. He doesn't quite know this yet, but in the footage, what he does know is what he sees - grim flashes of something not unlike . . . a demon.

This is not good.

Hell is about to break loose.

When it does, director Scott Derrickson, who has been wending his way though the flawed narrative and muting as many of its speed bumps as possible, delivers one shocker after another. Sinister made me jump out of my chair on numerous occasions when I first saw it on a big screen and it held up nicely on a second viewing. Happily, there weren't too many cheap scares, but the kind that are rooted in the pure, creepy crawler horror one ultimately expects from a top-flight genre picture.

Feel free to wear a pair or two of "Depends" in case you soil yourself.

I was glad I did.

"Sinister" is now available on BluRay and DVD via Alliance Films. The stunning HD transfer makes the most out the film's colour palette - especially the eerie grain on view in the 8mm footage in contrast to the "real-life" drabness of the setting. The extra features are definitely a treat. There are two excellent commentary tracks for the main feature. The best one is definitely Scott Derrickson who adds plenty of genuinely useful bits about the filmmaking process. The interesting one is with Derrickson and his co-writer where the emphasis is on story elements as they relate to a number of practical filmmaking elements. I was finally, not convinced the script was any better, but it was interesting to hear the perspective of the writers. The deleted scenes are the usual assortment of stuff that should have been cut, though you can watch them with Derrickson's commentary which provides added insight. A couple of dull, stock featurettes are thrown in for good measure. The BluRay combo comes with a downloadable digital copy.

If you're interested in purchasing Sinister, feel free to use the direct links below and you'll also be assisting with the overall maintenance of the site itself.