Remember the name of the genre—horror—because images very unsettling keep meeting the eye in Scott Derrickson’s Sinister (2012). It’ll remind you of real life—existential terrors. The movie begins, after all, with a grainy old film shot of four members of a family being hanged.
Ethan Hawke plays Ellison Oswalt, a writer who, though he loves his family, loves even more the thought of writing another true-crime bestseller. He seeks to discover what happened to the fifth, and missing, member of the murdered family, but unwittingly he must begin to mingle with supernatural dark forces.
Yes, there are spooky children here, which has long been old hat, but committed work has been done in Sinister, with agreeable plotting and visual expertise. A few years ago Derrickson directed The Exorcism of Emily Rose, a film I didn’t like, but there I could at least see traces of talent. Even more talent is evident in the current movie. An occasional lack of freshness does not diminish the gripping nature of the technical effects—or the energy and depth of Hawke’s performance.