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The Darker Side of Sinister . . .

by Carl Anthony

Horror films make their mark in two ways: by scaring the day lights out of a person when watching it and turning gears inside the brain after the fact.  Any horror film capable of making a viewer jump and pull a blanket over the eyes deserves respect.  Yet, such reverence can and often does, with the right horror movie, go a step farther. 

Such is the case with "Sinister," a delightfully scary treat from last year with Ethan Hawke in the primary role.  Hawke's character, Ellison Oswalt, has taken what might be described as a fall from grace with his writing career.  Desperate to regain that glory, Oswalt, pushes the limits of his very existence to unveil the haunting story within the walls of his family's new home.  Oswalt figures if he can just get it on paper and publish it, he and his family can live the dream life they always wanted.  

On the first point, "Sinister" is not for the faint of heart.  It will cause a viewer to jump in fear.  The blanket will be utilized to cover the eyes.  And, although some of those moments are traditional chills, common in modern horror films, they are further accentuated through the use of Super 8 film and the gruesome acts depicted on it.  "Sinister," in this sense, earns its title accordingly.  As Oswalt is obsessed with the projector reels, the viewer does in turn and is left to wonder, the same as Oswalt: "what exactly am I seeing and why?"

On the second point: "Sinister" will plant itself in a viewer's thought process and turn the gears.  This type of mental re-watching is not specific to the horror genera either.  Any good film elicits this.  It's a sign the film was enjoyable and memorable.  This is usually followed by a recommendation to friends but after awhile, the allure wears off.  And with "Sinister," moving on is usually where it all goes wrong.  

If "Sinister" is allowed to be just another horror film, we may miss its true meaning; that meaning turning our gears.  The elaboration of that second point; which is often more real, more scary than the first and that no blanket over the eyes can save us from.  Could it be said: horror movies, behind all the monsters and mayhem, reflect many of the real and troublesome concerns ahead of our world, our family, and our lives?  If the answer is "yes," then one must be prepared to examine the real scare factor in "Sinister."

Watch it and see . . . what is more real?  The figure in the mask, hidden in the Super 8 reels?  Or the fact Oswalt will sacrifice everything to maintain a career?  What is more real?  The projector box that reappears or the sobering concept of when we want something in the worst way, that is usually how we get it.  Which is why the line, "don't worry, Daddy, I will make you famous again," should make your skin crawl.       

Carl Anthony / Lite 92.5 KELO-FM, Sioux Falls