Horrortoberfest ’21 Day 18 – Sinister (2012)

New week, new theme. This time around we are starting up “Boogeyman Week”. The rules I set for if something counts as a boogieman are fairly specific. It needs to be a supernatural entity (no Michael Meyers). It’s not just a ghost (no Freddy Krueger). It’s not any kind of other generic monster like a vampire or a werewolf. Finally, it needs to menace or threaten children specifically. While most movies are going to be about grownups, it can either be something from their childhood (like The Boogeyman) or have its main target be children, like in today’s film.

Ellison Oswalt (Ethan Hawke) is a true crime writer that had one big hit 10 years ago and has been chasing that high ever since. In order to be closer to the investigation of his newest book project; he moves his family into the home of a family that was hanged and a child went missing, unbeknownst to the rest of his family. When he finds a box of old Super 8 films in his attic that show not just the recent murder but a series of similar ones over the course of decades, he begins to think he’s stumbled on a gold mine of a book. Of course, what he has actually stumbled on is a supernatural evil that has been responsible for the deaths of everyone on those movies.

This movie is exceedingly dark. Not just in terms of the fact that it’s about the murdering of families but also that it is impossible to tell what is going on for a lot of the runtime. I was in a dark room with my brightness as high as it would go and it did nothing to help the fact that large chunks of the movie are just going to be Ethan Hawke wandering around in complete darkness while spooky music plays. Which is a shame because when the movie actually has the lights turned up enough to see the creepy stuff that’s happening, it works fairly well. The “home movies” themselves are especially good at being tense and disturbing though the directorial choice to put what seems like soundtrack music for the films detracts from them for me. I think the silence outside the sound of the projector would have helped to enhance the creep factor of the grainy murder films.

The mystery of what happened and who killed these people is pretty obvious from the get go and what engages you with the story is more Oswalt’s slow decent into madness and being unhinged. It takes way longer than you would think for him to get to the point where he is like “Oh shit, there are spookums afoot” and you can see his greed and desire to be famous again is what ultimately dooms him and his family. Considering that the boogeyman for this film, Bughuul the eater of children, is a corrupting force on kids; I would have liked to have seen more of the effect it had on this children rather than a couple cases of night terrors and a painting on the wall.

While there are a decent amount of scares in the movie, the real horror is definitely relegated to the home movies. They manage to both be incredibly graphic while not showing anything gruesome. That said, the child murder and sight of people being hanged might be a bit too upsetting for certain people.

Score: 3.5 out of 5

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