This review is of the edited TV-14 version of the film. All thoughts below should be addressed as such as a review of the unedited version would be more negative
It’s time to look at a horror film that actually isn’t too old. I suppose the time is relative though, at this point maybe someone would consider 2012 to be forever ago. Sinister is definitely a pretty terrible horror film that plays out like you would expect. It’s certainly pretty grim and gets pretty dark right from the jump. It never really gets better from there but no worries, you do have your classic horror type ending here. That’s definitely a staple and Sinister made sure to abide by it so even if I wouldn’t give the movie a thumbs up, it does respect the traditions.
The movie starts with Edison and his family moving over to a new house. Edison writes books about grisly murders which were never solved. He figures that this will help bring justice to the victims who need it. After all, they died before they could do everything they wanted to do so at least now he could help put the villain away for good. This case looks like it’ll be a lot more difficult to crack than his last few though. The murders have some very occult elements to them and there really might be something supernatural in the works here. One thing’s for sure, Edison can’t lower his guard here if he wants to leave the place alive.
Well, Edison does everything he can to make sure you can’t root for him all that much. He literally takes out the beer bottles and starts drinking as soon as the first tape is in. He makes sure to mention quite a lot that he isn’t an alchoholic or anything like that but his actions don’t always match up. Edison also never seems to really follow what he is saying. For example, he says that writing books isn’t about the money or the fame and that he wants justice. Yet, all he can think of are the possible TV deals and such when discussing the book. He is actually quite obsessed with being famous to the point where it seems to matter more to him than the justice part.
He also lies to his wife right away when saying that their house isn’t related to the murderer’s one. Now, he words his response in a way where he later tries to say that it wasn’t a lie, but that’s a technicality at best. He knew exactly what she was asking and said the opposite anyway. Edison’s made life rather difficult for the rest of his family. His son suffers from night terrors which have gotten worse ever since they moved, his daughter had to part with all of her friends, and his wife is certainly not well liked by the neighbors thanks to all of the murders going around. It’s just not a pleasant environment. It’s one that Edison is certainly okay with but now that he has a family he has to include them in his considerations as well.
Edison also makes a lot of typical horror protagonist mistakes. For starters, while he doesn’t believe in the supernatural, he’s given a lot of opportunities to figure things out and escape. The kids start learning things they couldn’t possibly know, names they shouldn’t recognize, and his projector keeps turning on by itself at night. Shouldn’t this be enough for him to let the family know that something is up? “Best” case scenario is that someone just keeps breaking into the house and worst case is that the demons are around. Either way this is something that he needs to explain at least to his wife so that they will be ready. By not telling them anything then they’re just going to go down like all the rest.
The villain himself doesn’t really appear much. Based on what we learn from the lore and what not it’s basically a demon with quite a lot of power. While it isn’t able to possess adults very easily it can do so with a little practice. Beyond that it has the usual reality warping skills and slight of hand. Not the most imaginative villain out there but I will give him props for the costume. At the very least that one looks pretty decent whenever we actually get to see it appear which isn’t very often.
The Deputy was pretty neat though. He kept it 100 with Edison and was always trying his best to help. Edison might have actually had a shot to last longer if he had just listened to the guy instead of hitting ignore on his phone the whole time. Again, Edison really helped to wrap himself in all the trouble he caused. If he had listened to his wife earlier then nothing would have happened. Additionally once the supernatural stuff started to happen he should have clued everyone in. This is really just a case of Edison ignoring all of the signs until it was too late.
The whole gimmick of having to watch the tapes each time doesn’t do the film any favors either. Each tape is about a family getting bumped off in pretty violent ways. Whether it is by drowning or burning, they never quite survive. There’s no way they could have since the whole point is that the villain has been bumping everyone off for a long while now. In a way that makes the tapes worse since you know that they’re all doomed from the start so it’s not like watching them will change anything. Additionally, expect to see each tape several times as they cut to flashbacks quite often. You’ll know each of the tapes quite well by the climax because of that. With the kids dying in those tapes as well they’re definitely no good. There are a bunch of different jump scares in the film though so we’ll see if any of them land for you. I’ll say this at least, I was expecting the dog to die so when he didn’t I was happy about that. It sort of cancelled out though as a dog died in one of the videos…so there goes that. For every step the film took forward it took about 5 back.
Overall, Sinister is one of those films that’s pretty mean spirited and doesn’t really add anything to the cinematic world. Edison does the genre leads proud with how he misses every clue though. He is determined to crack this case and seems to think that he is tough enough to survive all of the scares. That is clearly not the case but I guess I’ll give him some points for bravery…or I would if he didn’t lose them all by running to the beer bottle and lying about it. This is the kind of movie where he probably would have been doomed either way but at least Edison could have given the others a chance. I also think it’s worth pointing out that the Deputy was able to notice things that the lead did not despite working on this case for a much shorter period of time. The Sheriff claimed that Edison was washed up and maybe he was right.