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Originally published Thursday, October 11, 2012 at 12:03 AM

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'Sinister': Shivers come from stupidity of lead character

A review of "Sinister," a horror film about a true-crime writer (Ethan Hawke) who moves his wife and kids into a suburban home where a family very much like his own has been horribly murdered. Purpose: research. Result: epic stupidity.

Special to The Seattle Times

Movie review 2 stars

'Sinister,' with Ethan Hawke, Juliet Rylance, Mark Hall D'Addario, Clare Foley, James Ransone. Directed by Scott Derrickson, from a screenplay by Derrickson and C. Robert Cargill. 110 minutes. Rated R for disturbing violent images and some terror. Several theaters.

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"Sinister." Pretty good title for a horror movie. All those spooky sibilances are fine for sending shivers shooting up the spine. But for the movie under discussion, that title is off the mark. Here's a better one:


As in: The lead character played by Ethan Hawke is really, really stupid. He's also a really, really bad parent.


You be the judge.

Hawke's character, a writer of true-crime best-sellers, moves his family — wife (Juliet Rylance) and two preteen kids (Mark Hall D'Addario and Clare Foley) — into a suburban rambler where a family has been horribly done to death. Purpose: research. The case is to be the subject of his next book.

It's a creepy place, rife with ominous midnight noises — creaks, clunks, etc. — and full of dark rooms and shadowy corridors. In its spooky attic, he discovers a mysterious box full of 8mm film cans and a projector. The films show not only the former occupants being hanged from a tree in their own back yard, but also other families being dispatched in similarly warped and creative ways. Families, one can't help but notice, that are just like the Hawke character's own: nice parents with several young kids.

Does he see the similarities? Not really. Stupid.

And when his daughter, a budding artist, paints scenes of the killings on her bedroom wall, is he bothered? Hardly, even though he's never allowed her to see the movies. Oh, and he's neglected to tell his family their new home was a crime scene. Stupid.

Finally, when the projector takes to starting up all by itself in the middle of the night, projecting gruesome footage, does he immediately bundle devoted wife and precious offspring into the car and get the heck out of dodge? Nope.

The dude is dumber than a bunch of hormone-addled teens heading for a weekend at a remote cabin in the woods.

This will not end well. Anyone with half a brain can see that. What's inexplicable in this overlong terror fest is why Hawke's dim daddy does not.


Soren Andersen:

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