Prior to last night, November 1, 2012, I hadn’t seen a horror movie in theaters since Cabin in the Woods back in April, and before that, not since the original […]
Prior to last night, November 1, 2012, I hadn’t seen a horror movie in theaters since Cabin in the Woods back in April, and before that, not since the original Paranormal Activity, way back in 2009. I’ve never been a big horror movie fan. There are a lot of horror flicks I’ve enjoyed, but very rarely do I truly love one. On the whole, I find them tedious, boring, repetitive, unoriginal, and completely lacking in the story department. Most of them are barely movies at all. They’re just a series of cheap scares and over-the-top murder scenes, typically featuring 5 or 6 untalented “up and coming” young actors in the lead roles, with one or two minorities thrown in to satisfy a quota (and so that we all know who’s gonna die first). In that sense, they’re more like thrill rides than movies. Perhaps horror movies should play at amusement parks instead of movie theaters.
When someone asks me what kind of movies I like, my response is simple, “I like good movies.” I don’t care what genre it is, so long as it’s good. Unfortunately, most horror movies aren’t good. The last horror movies I truly enjoyed were The Grudge and The Ring (both the American and Japanese versions). Unlike horror movie buffs (whose mindset I’ll never understand), I’m not looking for new and exciting ways to watch people get stabbed or otherwise maimed. That doesn’t excite me. I saw the original Final Destination in theaters, hated it, and haven’t seen any of the 49 sequels. I haven’t seen ANY of the Saw movies. I never saw any of the Paranormal Activity sequels because they were obviously just more of the same, and the story from the first one wasn’t so interesting that I wanted to know more.
Now, this doesn’t mean I’m rooting against horror movies. I saw Sinister last night precisely because I’ve wanted to see a good horror movie for so long (unlike most, I didn’t care much for Cabin in the Woods, either, so it’s been almost a decade since I saw a horror movie in theaters that I actually liked). I’d heard good things about it, I liked the trailer, it had gotten better than average reviews, and a few people I know who’d seen it all recommended it without hesitation. So the week it came out, I officially placed Sinister in the “Want To See” column. Because there are a lot of other good movies out right now, I prioritized those during these past few weeks, but I’m finally caught up, so last night I decided fuck it, let’s go see Sinister finally.
Ugh. Nothing hurts like the sting of disappointment.
Let’s just say my faith in the opinions of some of my friends and in Rotten Tomatoes was not rewarded. Sinister does nothing new except create a different freakish-looking supernatural villain, and it relies on the trendy “found footage” angle to drive the plot. This annoyed the piss out of me, as did a bunch of other little things, so now I’m gonna nitpick the shit out of it for a few minutes. This is totally random bitching, and you won’t get it unless you’ve seen the movie, but that’s not gonna stop me. I need to vent. You’ve been warned.
Spoilers ahead, mostly in chronological order:
THINGS THAT ANNOYED ME ABOUT SINISTER
-I originally thought the main bad guy, some demon called Bughuul (whose main gig is to possess children and force them to film themselves killing their families), looked pretty cool. Then, after seeing the film and thinking about it, I realize instead that he just looks like one of the band members of Slipknot. Not so cool anymore. Although this does mean going forward in this post I can refer to him as The Slipknot Killa. I would like to have heard or seen some more backstory on this character, but of course that’s a lot to ask of a horror movie.
–Sinister is filled with all the stupid tropes of modern horror movies. When there’s a scare, it has to be accompanied by a loud sound effect (SO YOU KNOW THIS IS SCARY!!!), and the buildup to each scare is accompanied by unnecessary creepy music, which of course stops 1.5 seconds before the scare (SO YOU KNOW THE SCARE IS ABOUT TO HAPPEN!!!). Wouldn’t these moments be scarier and more genuine if you didn’t telegraph them a mile away? I don’t understand why no filmmaker will even attempt the silent, unexpected scare. I know that would creep me out more; if all of a sudden there’s a decapitated 10-year old girl standing silently (of course she’s silent- she doesn’t have a head!) behind the main character, instead of having some massive sonic boom every time something suddenly appears onscreen. No, we have to keep things the same way, because audiences are trained like zombies to know precisely when a jump scare is coming. Mixing it up on them might be…what’s that word…INTERESTING, and we can’t have that!
-Speaking of repetitive nonsense, how many scenes in one movie do I need to see of Ethan Hawke walking around his house or his backyard in super slow-mo in the middle of the night looking for something? There had to be at least 5 such scenes in this movie, maybe more, and I was wishing I had a remote control so I could fast forward through it each time. And no matter what happens to him in these scenes, no matter how much noise he makes once he does finally find something, nobody else in the house is ever going to wake up. Dude falls down a ladder out of his attic? No big deal, the family is in cryosleep, don’t worry about it! All the crashing and banging in the world isn’t gonna disturb the slumber of his wife and two kids. Stupid.
-Here’s a real estate question. So the house Ethan Hawke and his family just moved into as the movie starts is the same one where at the very beginning of the film, 4 people get hanged in the backyard. During this hanging, one giant tree branch is cut off with a saw to use as a counterbalance in lifting the hanging victims off the ground. When Hawke moves in, this giant branch is STILL lying on the ground next to that tree in the backyard. Come on now! They just left this massive branch lying on the grass right where it was during the hanging?! Nobody would have thought to have the fuckin thing removed? I’m sure that helps property value big time. Why not just leave the bodies of the dead family hanging there, too?
And by the way, Hawke’s character conceals from his wife the fact that they’re moving into a house where a quadruple homicide took place, and she never finds out on her own or presses him about why they’re moving into this house of all houses. Cuz that’s believable. Go try telling your wife, “Woman, get the kids. We’re moving into a small house in this really small town where some murders took place so I can get inspiration for my next book. But don’t ask questions about why I chose this particular house, and don’t ask questions about who lived there previously. I’ve already chosen it, the deal is done, we’re moving, let’s go.” “Okay honey, I support you.” Riiiight.
-Ethan Hawke doesn’t confide in ANYBODY, including the expert in supernatural mumbo jumbo (played inexplicably in two quick scenes via webcam by Vincent D’Onofrio– seriously, how much did he get paid for this?). Dude, explain to me what the benefit is to keeping all of this to yourself, no matter how much it escalates, no matter how much danger you’re clearly in. Enlighten my ass. Was it just so you could keep the secrets for the book you’re working on? The book we never actually see you working on?
-The one guy he did sort of confide in, actually called “Officer So and So” in the movie (played by James Ransone), calls him repeatedly on his cell phone at the end with a huge revelation, but apparently this revelation (the connection between all the murders Hawke has been investigating) isn’t important enough to leave a fuckin voice message even once. And he doesn’t know how to text, either, apparently. He calls at least 3 times that we see before Hawke finally picks up. Maybe his voicemail was full? Naw, doubt it. Just more dumb horror movie clichés.
-The cop that pulls over the family near the end of the movie (inexplicably played for just two quick scenes by Fred Thompson), is the same 70-something year old we saw earlier in the film preaching to Ethan Hawke’s character about not being welcome in town because of the subject matter of the books he writes. Am I really supposed to believe that the 75-year old sheriff is pulling third shift duty? Gimme a fuckin break. I’m pretty sure his seniority on the force would at least buy him the luxury of working normal daytime hours. Amiright? But no, it has to be the geezer so we can wrap up that subplot and the sheriff can be like, “Well, since you’re getting the fuck out of my town that you’re not welcome in, I won’t write you this ticket. Thanks for getting the fuck out of here. Because you weren’t welcome here. Was that clear?”
-In the final act, Ethan Hawke pulls his family out of bed in the middle of the night after finally realizing it was a bad idea to move into this haunted house and meddle with the past. “Get the kids, we’re leaving now!” he says to his distressed wife with the Australian accent. On the trip out (before they get pulled over by the 75-year old sheriff at 2 in the morning), one of the kids asks a perfectly reasonable question, “What about our stuff?”, to which Hawke responds, “We’re gonna call the movers in the morning.” CUT TO THE NEXT DAY, and a moving truck is being unloaded at their old house. WHAT!? Find me a moving company that will pack all your shit for you at one house (with no supervision, mind you) and then bring it to your other house, all of this happening THE SAME DAY YOU CALL THEM. Now that’s fucking customer service. For my last move, I had to book the movers a week out just to move a bedroom’s worth of stuff across town!
-REALLY?! The Slipknot Killa leaves behind a reel of “Extended Cut Endings” (that’s exactly how the film reel is labeled in the movie) for Ethan Hawke to watch?! That literally happened? Apparently, Mr. Boogie (that’s what the kids call him, that lovable lug) is a fan of DVD/Blu-ray extra features. That’s the only explanation; he’s a director who wants people to know how he creates his films. Why couldn’t he also leave behind “Deleted Scenes” or a “Making-Of Documentary” or a gag reel?! I LOL’d at this moment, in disbelief more than anything else. It’s like, “Well, since you couldn’t figure out exactly what was happening with these murders after all this time, here’s some bonus footage that will explain everything, dumbass.” If your intention is to kill someone the exact same way you killed a bunch of other people, why would you deliberately leave evidence behind detailing how you go about killing people?
I’m just asking the questions, friends. I don’t have the answers.
-How does Ethan Hawke’s daughter, even if she is under the control of The Slipknot Killa, manage to concoct a drink that knocks Hawke unconscious? Did Slipknot Killa possess her and take her to the pharmacy, then possess the pharmacist to give her some drugs? Or did Ethan Hawke and his wife have chloroform in the medicine cabinet for a rainy day?
THINGS THAT DIDN’T ANNOY ME ABOUT SINISTER
-I like the very beginning of the film, with the super 8mm footage of the family being hanged on the tree, especially the way it was shown in slow-motion. It was suitably creepy, and left me with hope for what was to come. Hope that was dashed quicker than that of a 2008 Barack Obama voter. Ba dum bum!
-Speaking of which, all of the 8mm discovered film footage is suitably creepy, messed up, and well done. The bit with the lawnmower was particularly skin-curling.
-I liked that it had an unhappy ending. I like that the bad guys won. It’s all too rare nowadays that a movie has the balls to end the story in defeat for the protagonist, with no promise of a sequel. This movie did, and I respect that, even if was in a sort of anticlimactic way. There’s no final battle with the Slipknot Killa, he just gets what he wants, and Hawke, after all this discovery, doesn’t even get to put up a fight. This is like if a Friday the 13th movie ended with Jason Voorhees just walking into a house where the main characters were hanging out, killing everybody and calling it a night. But of course they nearly ruin the ending by having that stupid cheap scare right before cutting to the end credits. Couldn’t resist that stupid shit, could we?
And that’s about it, folks. The movie had potential, but almost all of it was squandered. It’s a damn shame.
No matter what I think or say though, the movie cost just $3 million to make and has grossed $41 million so far, so goodie for Summit and the filmmakers. You can’t argue with results like that, and in the end, I’m happy mini-studios like Summit and Lionsgate exist, even if they are putting out horror movie crap and the Twilight movies. The simple fact remains that more financiers= more places to get movies made= more chances to get good movies. You take the bad with the good, even if it is 3 bad for every 1 good.
I put my valuable time and energy into going to see this movie on the big screen, and my faith was not rewarded. Who knows what the next horror movie I’ll go out and see is? There’s certainly nothing on the horizon that I can think of that looks worth my time. In case I haven’t made myself clear, do not see Sinister in theaters. Rent it if you’re morbidly curious about it, but I can’t even recommend that. It’s not worth 110 minutes of your time on the big screen, on your TV, on your laptop, your tablet or your goddamn phone. It’s not worth the 15-30 minutes it’d take to pirate it, either. And finally, if you’re one of these horror movie lovers who enjoyed this, who’ll see just about ANY horror flick because you love onscreen gore and killing, I ask…what the fuck is wrong with you?