Any film that opens with silent, grainy Super 8 footage of a family being slowly hanged by an unseen force utilising the ample leverage supplied by a massive tree branch, is obviously not exactly reaching for the rom-com crowd.

Sinister sees true crime writer Ellison Oswalt (Ethan Hawke), wife Tracy (Juliet Rylance) and their children Ashley and Trevor move into the house of a murdered family, whilst he investigates the circumstances of their brutal demise, hoping to craft a bestseller.

Once he finds a box in the attic containing a projector and several reels of harrowing Super 8 footage, things take a turn for the tense and grisly. He becomes obsessed with the creepy films and increasingly ignorant to his family’s concerns, and when a certain Mr. Boogie starts making his unnerving presence known, the film sprints towards a terrifying climax.

It’s completely possible that the filmmakers of Sinister were trying to brainstorm a title, then reviewed their terrifying ‘family hanging’ home movie created for the first two minutes, and came up with just about the single-most apt word available in the English language.

Sinister is exactly that; an evil, malevolent encapsulation of horror and fear. However, don’t be concerned that this falls into the ‘torture porn’ category ruled and regulated by the Saw movies. There is in fact very little in the way of gore, and far more of an intense psychological edge, with some truly frightening images given an original spin through that grainy footage.The devastating primary antagonist is a real highlight too, managing to somehow stir up that chasm of unease you could feel as a child when you were unsettled by some single grim image from a nightmare. He is nasty, and whilst so many horror films fall down once you actually see the source of all the running, screaming and shouting, in this case the design of the evil blighter contributes even further to the film’s successful attempts to scare the bejesus out of people.

He is almost like a grungy grim reaper, a modern take on the classically gothic vision, and the absence or vagueness of specific facial features, even up close, delivers those truly intense spine-tingling chills that are gold dust for the jumpy horror movie.

In terms of story, you get more here than your average fright-fest, which is a bonus seeing as the film already delivers on the scares in far more impressive fashion than the numerous pretenders. You won’t get a weaving web of a tale, and don’t expect one, but solid performances, led by Ethan Hawke on fine form and out of his element, as well as slick, pacy direction and wonderful editing, all brilliantly complement the relentless tension and stunning scares, making Sinister a totally top-drawer horror movie.

DVDRental Rating 9/10

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