Sinister: Bughuul is One Scary Dude!
"Sinister" (2012), directed by Scott Derrickson from a script by C. Robert Cargill, is a very scary horror film, certainly one of the best horror films of recent years. It is brought to you by the director of "The Exorcism of Mary Rose," and, as in that film, the spooky plot is as important as the usual scary events. Cargill has stated that the idea for the film came from a nightmare that he had, which probably is the best source of inspiration for a horror film imaginable. He plays on the childhood of "the bogeyman," which every kid hears at some point. Like any truly great horror film, "Sinister" has plenty of twists that help keep the mood going all the way to the end.
|"No, don't look in the innocent-looking box!"|
Having moved his family into a new home that, as we learn in an introductory sequence in grainy Super 8 footage, recently was the scene of an odd murder of four people hung while wearing hoods over their heads, has-been true-crime novelist Ellison Oswalt (Ethan Hawke) hopes the house's history will inspire his writing. Oswalt also thinks he may find clues to the disappearance of the murdered family's young girl, Stephanie, who disappeared. Poking around in the attic, Oswalt finds a box full of old film reels labelled innocently: BBQ ’79, pool party ’66, lawn work ’86. The more innocent the title, though, the more horrifying the contents. Reviewing the film, Oswalt sees parallels between the murders in the films and the murders that took place in his house. They are snuff films (actually sequences taken from obscure old horror movies), and the strangest thing about them is that, in all of them, there is the same demonic figure present at the murders, along with a strange symbol.
|Death is never pretty|
Trying to unravel the mystery, Oswalt asks the local Sheriff (Fred Dalton Thompson) for any information that he may have about the events shown in the films. It turns out that the murders began occurring in the 1960s in different places. In each case, the murdered family was drugged, and then one of the children went missing. A local professor, Jonas (Vincent D'Onofrio), tells Oswalt the symbol is that of the pagan deity Bughuul (Nicholas King, who killed to obtain children whose souls he could consume.
|Oswalt starts out just trying to write a book, but then things become real|
The murders become even more real to Oswalt when he hears the projector running in the attic one night and goes to investigate. There, he finds the missing children from the filmed murders watching one of the films. They are all dead and decaying. Bughuul appears in the film, then in person. This frightens Oswalt so much that he burns the films and informs his family that they have to move out of the house. Oswalt then hears from Professor Jonas, who shows him drawings from ancient cultures of Bughuul which the ancients had partially destroyed because of their belief that images served as Bughuul's conduit between his realm and the real world. Weirdly, Oswalt then finds the camera and film, which he had destroyed, in perfect condition in the attic with an additional reel marked "extended endings."
|"Sinister" has its share of false scares.|
The town deputy (James Ransone) then calls and tells Oswalt that in each of the murders, the family had previously lived in the house where the last murders took place, and then was murdered shortly after moving to a new home. Oswalt, having moved, thereby had set up the same conditions for his own family. Oswalt then watches the new film, in which the missing children now appear after the murders and confess to having committed them. Suddenly, Oswalt realizes he has been drugged by his coffee, whose cup has been marked, "Good night Daddy."
|The dead children and Bughuul in "Sinister."|
When he awakens, Oswalt finds himself and his wife (Juliet Rylance and son bound and gagged. His daughter Ashley (Clare Foley) is holding the Super 8 camera. She says to Oswalt, "I'm going to make you famous again," and then proceeds to butcher everyone. She uses the blood from the corpses to paint pictures on the wall of various animals. She then sits down to watch the film she just took, which features one more appearance from Bughuul.
|Oswalt gradually becomes obsessed with his discovery in "Sinister."|
"Sinister" doesn't pull any punches. The ending will shock and disturb precisely because you aren't expecting the level of horror that Oswalt knows is coming and tries to prevent. Typically in these types of films, somebody is ultra-clever and figures everything out, or at least figures enough out to escape themselves. The true horror of "Sinister" is that it doesn't matter what Oswalt knows or what he tries to do - fate awaits him and his family, and he is the one that put them in that position.
|The bogeyman always lurks in the shadows in "Sinister."|
"Sinister" glorifies film itself and its power, but it also shows how film is related to past paintings and drawings, as nothing more than just another form of basic imagery. The Super 8 film that Ellison finds is quite graphic in the usual horror-film manner, being taken from slasher films of the 70s and 80s. The air of menace is aided by Christopher Young's spooky soundtrack. The descent of Oswalt's character from mere opportunist, to obsessed investigator, to trembling victim is handled very believably. Like us, Oswalt can't look away no matter how gruesome things become. The ending of "Sinister," with its air of fatalism and inevitability, will leave you breathless.
|Bughuul and Ashley in "Sinister."|
On the downside, the supernatural elements are a bit over-the-top. We are led to believe that it takes a small-town deputy to piece together a series of fundamentally identical mass murders that puts Jack the Ripper to shame. Also, the police don't really seem to be overly interested in a mass murder that just took place in their town until Oswalt starts looking into things himself. The whole "Mesopotamian God" thing was done to death many years ago, most notably lampooned in "Ghostbusters." Thus, there are more than a few horror film clichés thrown in to sustain the plot, which drags the film down a few notches. The air of unreality, though, actually helps the horror, because it lifts "Sinister" out of the ordinary world and places the entire sequence of events in an almost dream-like setting.
|Ashley truly does become a creepy little thing in "Sinister."|
While true fans of horror films won't be too surprised by much in "Sinister," and it does have some of the usual unrealistic elements of such films, the characters are interesting and you come to care about the fate of Oswalt and his family. New ideas are brought to the table by "Sinister," and you can't condemn a film for not reworking and reinventing the entire horror film genre. "Sinister" is a great film for a scary date night. Probably the best horror film of 2012. You won't be sorry that you watched "Sinister" if you like these kinds of films.