Do you have a weird fetish for 8mm projectors? Then boy do I have the movie for you. Sinister is approximately 90% shots of Ethan Hawke assembling and fiddling around with an old film projector. The remaining ten percent is like that processed mystery meat in hotdogs, except with cliches.
Sinister scored big at the box office in 2012 because the only other horror movie with half a brain that year was Cabin in the Woods, and Cabin required too much thought from the average viewer to be successful. It did so well that the director was picked to direct the upcoming Dr. Strange movie for Disney. It’s as if everyone forgot this guy directed Hellraiser V and the Day the Earth Stood Still remake. Because the foul stench of this guy’s filmography hasn’t left Sinister.
The movie follows Ethan Hawke, who plays a true crime writer investigating a young girl who disappeared in the late 70’s. He decides to move into the victim’s old house for some reason (a fact his wife is amazingly oblivious to). While moving in, Ethan Hawke finds a box of Super 8 home movies and decides to watch them. To his surprise (well, the script wants him to be surprised but Hawke seems so disinterested in his role that he might as well have been asleep) the movies are graphic snuff films, and he suspects a connection between them and his case.
Rather than turn the films over to the police like a sane person, Hawke keeps them and tries to solve things himself. After porting the footage onto his computer, Hawke realizes that there is some sort of creature found in the background of the films. Hawke finally decides to get police help, so he of course enlists the comic relief cop. He is neither comic or a relief in this long slog of a movie. The cop puts him in contact with Vincent D’onofrio, a historian who gives as dead a performance as Hawke.
D’onofrio tells Hawke that the creature he saw was likely some ancient demon known as Mr. Boogie. (Yes, that really is what they call him.) The ol’ boogster apparently eats children and bears a striking resemblance to the Slenderman. And as an added bonus during one of his few on-screen appearances you can clearly see the actor’s green-screen glove. How frightening.
Eventually Hawke finds another box of tapes, quite seriously labelled “The Extended Cut”, and pops them in his projector. The bonus footage reveals that (no shock at all!) it was the missing children from the films that killed everyone! Apparently the boogeyman makes kids murder people instead of eating them. This is supposed to be a twist or something, but it’s blatantly obvious what happened within the first 15 minutes of movie. And then Hawke’s daughter ax-murders him to continue Mr. Boogie’s kill streak. And then there’s a stupid jump scare to finish things off. The End!
Overall, this is just a bland movie. Structurally the movie is sound, because the pacing is admittedly really good (it’s dull but at least it doesn’t drag) and it has a great creepy ambient soundtrack. The problem is that nothing is particularly scary in the movie. There’s the occasional creepy visual like the opening tree scene, but the movie always follows up and does something stupid to ruin the creep. (The left that tree branch there? For 30 years? Really?) The acting is wooden and the characters aren’t engaging, so there’s no investment when anything happens to them. The only fun part is the comically lame Mr. Boogie, but he’s barely even in the movie. There’s nothing outstandingly bad about Sinister, it’s just middling and dumb. It’s best to pass on this one.