Wednesday, November 21, 2012
I like horror movies even though most of them terrible, let's be real, but every once in awhile there's a smart one that reminds me of the full potential of the genre. (which isn't to say I don't full enjoy a lot of the terrible ones or whatever. Argh. All I mean is that horror movies get written off a lot but they be just as smart as any other type of film.)
There are only a handful of horror films that have ever really truly scared me, though, and one of them is The Exorcism of Emily Rose. It's not full of jumps or anything, it just treats demon possession (something that does scare me because I believe demons are real) as a serious question. I was seriously creeped out after watching it. Anyway, when I heard Sinister was by the same writer and director, I got excited for the potential of it to scare me!
It didn't really scare me. Which is a bummer. But...it is a smart horror movie, and much more thought provoking than most horror films. This story is trying to say something, not just scare you and I guess that's what makes it interesting. And I think at one point it did have the potential to scare me but there was a huge misstep as far as I'm concerned which sent me straight into the land of disbelief. Oh well!
Ethan Hawke plays a true crime novelist that had a huge hit once upon a time that really blew open a case. It brought him a lot of fame...and for ten years he's been trying to recreate that experience and failing. He moves his family to a new town to write about another true crime, but this time he moves them RIGHT INTO THE HOUSE where the crime happened. This means something because Oswalt's (Hawke's character) ambition is impacting his family. His son suffers from night terrors and both children have an unusual preoccupation with the crimes he studies. He's desperate, though, to reclaim some of what he's lost and his wife is willing to support him and give him this last chance.
He finds some films in the house and quickly realizes that these films are of murders. And these murders all have something in common--the whole family was brutally killed while one of the children went missing. He watches them over and over looking for clues. He strikes up a friendship with a local deputy to help him find more information. And eventually he learns that the crimes seem to follow a religious ceremony for an ancient god. It was believed that the demon/god lived in the images themselves and were gateways into his realm. And children exposed to the images are especially vulnerable to his seduction.
And...that's sort of the underlying thematic framework of the movie. I won't spoil all the twists for you, but this is very much, in my opinion, a film about image and the way we enslave ourselves to it. Oswalt watches old tapes of his glory days at night. Since he has fallen from fame, he drinks a lot. He fights with his wife about needing to finish the book when she insists they leave and tells her he's trying to preserve his legacy. She reminds him that her his children are his real legacy.
If in fact our families and our friendships are our legacy, than the film can be viewed as a cautionary tale of what happens when we forget that. It can be a reminder, that in fact, children are the most vulnerable in this new world we live in where image is so much. We barely have a chance to realize who we are now because of the way our lives are recorded and shared on social media. (And the great thing about this movie is that it never even mentions social media!)
We have a choice between living our lives for an artificial standard or investing in relationships and I think that tension is presented in this movie. Oswalt moves his family directly into the pit of darkness with him, he puts his pursuit of fame and human glory above their needs. And in the end a choice like isn't made in isolation, it affects our relationships and the people we love.
So even though Sinister didn't scare me and I wish on one issue in particular they'd taken a different route, I still think is's a film worth seeing and contemplating. It's not all boring and also kind of intriguing in some ways. Violent, though.
I've read a lot of interesting reviews of the movie, too, suggesting it's autobiographical and such. Also I'm pretty sure this post would have been a lot better if I hadn't waited so long to write it, sigh.