Grade B+

A family headed by Ethan Hawke moves into a house where four members of the previous owners were hung in the backyard, and a fifth member — the youngest daughter — is still missing.  Unlike most movies that start off like this, Hawke knows the history of the property!  And he specifically chose this house so he can get inspiration for his new book and give his flagging, writing career a boost.  Of course, he doesn’t tell his wife or two kids.

Right from the start, weird things happen.  Hawke finds a Super 8 camera, several film reels, and a projector in the attic.  He plays them, and all the reels are of families being snuffed out in horrible ways, with the exception of one child per family being spared the gruesome deaths, although the spared children are all missing.  Believing he has possession of a serial killer’s work, he analyzes the film to piece together the puzzle of who the killer is, who the victims are, why one child is missing from each family that is murdered, and what is the purpose of the killings.

As Hawke gets deeper into his investigation and research — his main purpose is to write a best-seller out of his newly found evidence — his children begin to see visions of dead children.  Worse than that, Hawke may have put himself and his family into the crosshairs of a killer, or killers, who may not be of this world.

“Sinister” is a rarity among current, horror movies in that it offers genuine scares.  Sure, a few of the scares are cheap; but the majority are set up very well that gives the audience a sense of dread that can last for minutes.  That’s called good directing, editing, screenwriting, cinematography, and acting.

One of my most memorable moments of this movie is the scene when Hawke is doing a sweep of his house at night after hearing noises that sounds like an intruder is inside.  Carrying a baseball bat, Hawke moves from one part of his dark house to another (why he doesn’t turn on the lights I have no idea!), and as he does so, the ghosts of children appear where he is not looking.

**SPOILER ALERT–ENDING OF THE MOVIE DISCUSSED**My most memorable, movie moment of “Sinister” is the scene when Hawke wakes up from his drugged state and finds himself, his wife, and his son tied.  His daughter holds an axe, staring at him, and she says, “Don’t worry, daddy, I’ll make you famous again.”

— M