Over the past few years the horror sub-genre of found footage has developed a generic name for itself, with every new release recycling the cliched conventions in order to create yet another boring tale; and what with 'Halloween' just around the corner prepare for a sudden influx. Hence Sinister, the newest film in the popular genre hoping to differentiate itself from the crowd with an alternate view on found footage, replacing 'HD pov', with archaic celluloid.
With a formulaic story at hand, alongside 'another demonic being', it was hard to predict whether this film would be 'more of the same' or in fact something much more sinister! What results is a coagulation of both,with the first half producing a truly engrossing suspense building horror, only to slip into the familiar stereotypical tale, we've all grown to know and love in the second half. This doesn't detract from the fact however that Sinister is an extremely scary film, producing some truly terrifying sequences of home-video violence that certainly sets it apart from the ever growing family of found-footage.
Whether it was the ageing appearance of the clunky film projector, or the seedy image which it produced, there is something about celluloid which creates a more threatening tone than the overused sight of the modern day 'camcorder'. Out of this machine comes a series of videos which prove to be much darker than previously expected, displaying graphic, uncomfortable contrasting videos of a family, first socialized then being maliciously slaughtered .Not only is the picture of terrifying quality but also the obscure choice of music present in each video, aids considerably in raising the tension in order to terrify the audience. This tension building is aided by the terrific performance of the anchoring protagonist Ethan Hawke, who provides a totally convincing and relate able character for the audience to cling onto. Although the remaining family may not be anywhere near as convincing as the lead performance they do a relatively good job in supporting him through their bearable yet undeniably monotonous personalities.
These shockingly beautiful scenes of found-footage build up to an unbearable level whereby the story begins to further unravel itself and subsequently fall apart.
Once the clever found-footage has been left behind, we enter into the supposedly terrifying world of 'bagul', a sweaty six foot tall demon that does little to express his purpose. True he is the centerpiece of the film, supplying horror through his demonic appearance, however little is explained to why he's actually in the film, and why he's committing these diabolical murders. This soon proves to be one of the many plot devices that go left totally untied, leaving you scared while somewhat confused. Totally spontaneous random events begin to occur opening up a land of continuity errors and issues detracting your from the horror as you scan your brain for possible reasoning.
The most common of techniques however used widely throughout this film is the use of the consistently successful yet cheap jump-scare. Being always predictable and generic, the jump scare is simply an instinctive way of making people scared, its not intelligent or fresh it's just boring, once you've seen one you've seen them all. As the film progresses another classic technique presents itself, the use of children. However these famished children are in no way effective, supplying only a source of abnormal humour, as they play a puerile game of hide and seek with our protagonist. Displaying the most pathetic prosthetics of (easily treatable) dry skin and greasy hair, these children made a mockery of this film supplying a light dusting of comedy that is vital to avoid.
In an industry where Horror films are beginning to look more like comedies it is overwhelmingly refreshing to see one that works on a number of levels. This is how found footage should be used, not because they can but because it works, it's intelligent, scary and above all sinister! They just seemed to forget that the most dominating of effects is what you don't see...
70%- Burdened by plot devices of stupidity, but saved by it's sheer magnitude of horror.