SINISTER (Scott Derrickson). 110 minutes. Opens Friday (October 12). See times. Rating: NN
Any horror movie asks us to suspend our disbelief. But the leap of faith required to swallow the supernatural thriller Sinister is downright comic.
Ethan Hawke plays a true crime writer who hasn't had a bestseller in years, so for inspiration he moves his adorable brood to a town where a gruesome murder took place. The kicker: the unsolved crime - the hanging of a whole family except for one child who remains missing - happened in their yard.
That it takes his smart, capable wife (Juliet Rylance) a week to learn about this is just one boneheaded plot point. Another is the fact that Hawke's investigation into the deaths goes little beyond a trip to the attic, where he oh-so-conveniently finds home movies about this and other, possibly related, violent deaths.
Sinister? More like stupid.
Which is a shame, because the creepy stuff - not just the grisly 8mm footage, but his walks through the house investigating every bump in the night - is eerily effective. And Hawke, a writer himself, is suitably grizzled, drowning his worries in whisky, which makes him doubt his own eyes.
But without showing what motivates Hawke's character to study crime, and by staying within the claustrophobic confines of the house for most of the picture (no doubt a budgetary decision), the film misses opportunities to deliver real frights, not just head-scratches.