Writer/director Scott Derrickson’s previous foray into horror, 2005’s The Exorcism of Emily Rose, surprised industry analysts and exceeded expectations with a $30 million opening weekend before going on to gross over $75 million domestically. Seven years later, Derrickson is returning to the horror genre, and the time since his last genre offering has only served to sharpen the director’s sensibilities.
Sinister stars Ethan Hawke as Ellison Oswalt, a true-crime novelist whose controversial body of work and penchant for exposing shoddy police work has made him unpopular with law enforcement agencies. Oswalt and his family have just relocated to a small rural town where a family of four were hung simultaneously from a tree in their backyard, and where the youngest daughter is still missing. His investigation leads him to a box of home movies stashed away in the attic – movies that show footage of brutal slayings, including the very crime which Oswalt is currently investigating, and all of which feature a mysterious figure.
Derrickson does a masterful job of slowly building suspense and increasing tension, and Hawke’s convincing performance pulls the viewer along for the ride as Oswalt’s obsession with solving the crimes slowly begins to chip away at his sanity. His slow descent into madness is punctuated by well-orchestrated scares and a pulsing soundtrack that quickly works its way under the skin of the audience, creating an atmosphere of ever-growing dread that should keep hearts pounding until the film’s shocking conclusion.