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Lights! Camera! Pants-Wetting! Why You Should Look Forward to Sinister

Sinister Screen

Four reasons why Sinister is probably the horror movie to watch this season

It’s October, everyone! And you know what that means: our yearly dance through the horror film minefield is here once again. We scary movie goers all join hands and take those hopeful steps forward– not knowing whether we’re going to stumble upon something like Blair Witch or tip toe through something like Blair Witch 2.

So we approach 2012 with the same hesitance we’ve learned over the last decade or so– but what’s this? A trailer that looks terrifying? A second trailer we could barely get through? Proven credits? Strong festival outings? Solid reviews? Word of mouth? Damn you, Internet… our hearts have been broken before!

But these usual flags are only part of the equation for this week’s Sinister, the Scott Derrickson helmed (and penned, along with C. Robert Cargill) story of a true-crime writer who moves his family to a new house… only to discover super 8 films in the attic that star demonic symbols and the prior residents’ horrifying deaths. As ho-hum as it might sound on paper, Sinister might have more going for it than the usual Halloween cash-grab. Let’s take a finger-obscured look:

The monster has a face.

Sinister FaceI just missed being in the generation of horror fans who grew up with Freddy, Michael, and Jason and it’s hard not to feel a little left out. Who has my generation had to fear? The Jigsaw dude who died three movies into a 7 part series? An Abe Lincoln who proclaimed “Four score and seven vampire heads ago?” The creaking door from Paranormal Activity!? Lord, I know we’re a vapid, entitled generation but I beg you, please don’t bestow to us horror villains vanquishable by a can of WD-40.

Enter: BAGUL. The Pagan deity of you shitting your own pants. This demonic dude resides within the very images in which he appears and I’m going to go out on a limb and say that if those images are *moving* (like, perhaps 24-frame-per-second type “moving”?)… that might be an issue. Bottom line: Hollywood has been scrambling for a tangible horror villain to hang its hat on. Bagul seems like a pretty strong bet, at least for this year. The dark horse? SMILEY.

Have no fear, Ethan Hawke is here.

Sinister ReflectionThe dude is criminally underrated. Whenever anyone thinks of Training Day, they think of Denzel Washington’s Oscar but usually forget that Hawke’s nervous co-performance anchors the entire film. Then there’s Gattaca, Reality Bites, Lord of War, and Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead. Even that vampires-have-taken-over-the-world flick, Daybreakers, has some surprisingly solid things in it. Hawke is one of them.

Whether it’s his acting talent, proven track record, or handsomeness that doesn’t feel like it was grown in some cyrogenic tube below Central Casting, I’m eager to see Hawke bring is particular brand of “everyman” scrappiness to a serious horror effort. I’d be lying if I said his mere participation didn’t look like a vote of confidence for the entire project.

The found footage is actually, you know, found.

ISinister Footage‘m the first to admit that the original Paranormal Activity really scared the pants off me, but found footage has become such a go-to fad that it’s difficult to believe that recent Dramamine-required outings were even “found footage” pitches to begin with. Entries like Chronicle and End of Watch are actually lessened by the fact that we’re constantly watching from A) where an in-focus HD camera just so happens to be present or B) a POV that breaks the rules from some ridiculous but totally cool angle. Yeah, I imagine a lot of cops probably affix iPhones to the end of their rifles before white-knuckled raids of an LA drug dens. “Siri, if we don’t make it outta here, tell my fiancé to always– FREEZE DIRTBAG!”

Instead of an imagined taping as the foundation of the entire film, Sinister puts the finding of said footage within the actual narrative– a decision so face-palmingly simple I want to hug the filmmakers. Of course, this isn’t the first time this has happened: 8MM, The Life of David Gale, and The Ring come to mind, and V/H/S, another creepy flick from this year, flirts with the idea. But none of these films have the strong alignment of tone, genre, and premise that Sinister hints at having. Let’s get those reels spinnin’.

It’s not trying to reinvent the wheel. 

Sinister BoxLet’s face it: family in a new house, haunted footage, demons hungry for children… these are not new kids on the block, mis amigos. But there’s is a lot more to be said for a familiar idea done really well than people are willing to admit. For all our fist-shaking, blood-curdling calls for originality, turns out not a lot of us have a big appetite for green and purple ketchup.

Executing a fresh and resonate take on stuff we’re already comfy with is a feat in itself. You don’t have to look farther than this year’s The Tall Man as exhibit A, a Jessica Biel vehicle about a backwoods urban legend that turns out to be real (OR DOES IT!?). While perfectly competent, the film ties itself in knots trying to distinguish itself, leaving most of us wishing it had just stuck to the tried-and-true nuts and bolts the logline had promised. Sorry, well-meaning pretzel movie – it’s just that ya didn’t have to try so hard.

The Tall Man has been quickly (and harshly – it’s worth a look) ushered to the bargain bin, right along with all the green and purple ketchup. Meanwhile, this coming weekend, Sinister feels like it’s going to leave us dripping in ketchup the color God always intended: Red.

Wait– oh God, THIS IS KETCHUP, RIGHT!?

  • Christin

    I watched the end of that trailer ten times but this movie is a whole lot of NOPE. I’m a wuss.

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