Thursday, November 06, 2014

Horror Thoughts ‘14—Sinister (2012) **

R, 110 min.
Director: Scott Derrickson
Writers: Scott Derrickson, C. Robert Cargill
Starring: Ethan Hawke, Juliet Rylance, Fred Dalton Thompson, James Ransone, Michael Hall D’Addario, Clare Foley

*sigh* There is so much misguidance in today’s horror filmmakers. Remember how in art class you were taught that you had to learn the rules before you could break them? Yeah. Nobody ever told Scott Derrickson that one, apparently.

One of those rules is that it is important for your audience to be able to see what they’re watching. One of my pet peeves about horror movies in general has always been people not turning the lights on when they’re scared. Who doesn’t turn the lights on? And why would the director not want anything to be seen? There is so little interior lighting employed in this movie, I began to wonder if it took place in a universe where Edison had never existed. There’s even one scene where there is clearly a hall light on, but it only illuminates the light fixture itself and the hallway not at all. How is that even possible? Quite an impressive feat by the cinematographer on that one. Unfortunately, it is a feat that actually defeats the purpose of filmed images rather than supports them.

Also to all horror scribes: If you are going to employ the image of a demon-like hound in a story about some sort of supernatural soul-eater, try to connect that dog to some sort of Hell-linked dogma of some sort rather than just having some random dog barking at your hero to create forced tension. It would be so easy to support the use of an angry dog in this story, but the filmmakers barely attempt to explain its presence. And, foreshadowing in general is a much more powerful tool in horror than filling in reasoning after the fact, that way when a snake or a scorpion just randomly shows up in the story, we don’t have to wait until the end before we know their significance. And it works even better if their significance has significance.

Anyway, “Sinister” has a good deal of potential that it squanders every chance it gets. It starts off on a bad note with the murder of four people by hanging. If they’re already hanging off the ground by their necks, I’m not sure how pulling them higher into the air kills them any faster. Weren’t they already dying? How did the elevation kill them quicker? I don’t get it.

Sorry, I insisted on focusing on the negative. I liked the idea of a writer getting pulled into these serial killings and living in the same house as the most recent one. It’s creepy to begin with. I just wish somebody in that house would turn some lights on so I could see what’s scaring them senseless.

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