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Scott Derrickson
Ethan Hawke, Juliet Rylance, James Ransone
Writing Credits:
Scott Derrickson, C. Robert Cargill

Washed-up true crime writer Ellison Oswalt finds a box of super 8 home movies in his new home that suggest the murder that he is currently researching is the work of a serial killer whose legacy dates back to the 1960s.

Box Office:
$3 million.
Opening Weekend
$18,007,634 on 2527 screens.
Domestic Gross

Rated R.

Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
English DTS-HD MA 7.1
French Dolby 5.1
English Dolby 2.0
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 110 min.
Price: $14.99
Release Date: 2/19/2013

• Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Scott Derrickson
• Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Scott Derrickson and Writer C. Robert Cargill
• “True Crime Authors” Featurette
• “Living in a House of Death” Featurette
• Deleted Scenes
• Trailer & Previews


-LG OLED65C6P 65-Inch 4K Ultra HD Smart OLED TV
-Marantz SR7010 9.2 Channel Full 4K Ultra HD AV Surround Receiver;
-Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player
-Chane A2.4 Speakers
-SVS SB12-NSD 12" 400-watt Sealed Box Subwoofer


Sinister [Blu-Ray] (2012)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (February 23, 2022)

Because I do things backwards, I saw 2015’s Sinister 2 before I viewed 2012’s Sinister. It took me 10 years, but I finally plopped the original film into my Blu-ray player.

True crime author Ellison Oswalt (Ethan Hawke) moves with his wife Tracy (Juliet Rylance) and kids Trevor (Michael Hall D'Addario) and Ashley (Claire Foley) to a small Pennsylvania town. They come to this location so he can research his next book, a tome that he hopes will snap a streak of failures and restore him to literary prominence.

As Ellison settles into their new house, he locates circa 1970s Super 8 footage left there by the prior residents. These reels display some shocking images, and as Ellison investigates, he goes down a rabbit hole that leads to negative consequences for him and his family.

As noted at the start, I watched Sinister 2 with no knowledge of this 2012 film. Like that review notes, this occurred because Lionsgate offered me a copy of Sinister 2 but not the first flick.

I thought Sinister 2 had its moments but didn’t really excel. Why did I eventually decide to give the 2012 Sinister a look?

Mainly because I saw it mentioned in Season Two of Eli Roth’s History of Horror. That series’ discussion of Sinister did enough to pique my interest and land the Blu-ray in my player.

Actually, I might not have given it a look without Hawke as the lead. I admit I find it semi-perplexing that Hawke went from the 1990s Sensitive Romantic Lead of flicks like Before Sunrise to the star of horror tales like Sinister and The Purge.

That seems like a career path I wouldn’t have anticipated for Hawke 20 years ago. But hey, a guy gotta eat!

And though these movies might seem like “slumming” for someone of Hawke’s talents, he tends to bring a level of class to them. Even if the material might not be the greatest objectively, Hawke’s presence adds a layer of credibility to the tales.

Hawke offers a more than credible performance, as he never “acts down” to the material. Unfortunately, Sinister doesn’t really give him much to do, so he can’t redeem this fairly sluggish narrative.

Honestly, Sinister tends to feel like a short film expanded to feature length. Large chunks of screen time consist of little more than Ellison as he watches movies or stares at a computer monitor.

While the film attempts to make these scenes creepy and ominous, it doesn’t really succeed. The movie does give us some spooky moments, but these occur too infrequently to make a real impact.

Occasionally Sinister feels like a stab at psychological horror as Ellison starts to crack. This can make it reminiscent of The Shining.

However, Sinister fails to explore these domains well, and it essentially ignores the damage to Ellison’s psyche after a brief period. The natural narrative flow goes off-track and we find ourselves left with… not much.

Again, it really becomes tough to generate a lot of scares when we find ourselves stuck with shots of a guy as he watches old Super 8 footage. Even though those reels can feel creepy, the distance from them leads to audience detachment and little actual tension.

When Sinister doesn’t focus on Ellison’s explorations, it does little more than toss the usual jump scares our way. These lack real impact and seem more tedious than startling.

All of this leaves us with a surprisingly dull horror tale. While Sinister pours on spooky imagery and discordant music, it lacks much to pack a terrifying punch. This makes it a long, slow journey to not much of anywhere.

The Disc Grades: Picture B+/ Audio B/ Bonus B

Sinister appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.40:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. The movie came with a positive presentation.

Sharpness was solid. Only a smidgen of softness ever occurred, so the majority of the flick offered strong delineation.

No issues with jaggies or shimmering occurred, and the presentation lacked edge haloes. In terms of source defects, I witnessed no specks, marks or other issues, as the Blu-ray gave us a clean transfer.

In terms of palette, Sinister went with a subdued sense of tones. These leaned toward a mix of amber, teal and blue, but nothing that overwhelmed. Within the quiet visual choices, the colors worked fine.

Blacks appeared dark and dense, while shadows showed appropriate clarity. I felt happy with the image.

Similar thoughts accompanied the fairly good DTS-HD MA 7.1 soundtrack of Sinister. This wasn’t exactly an action-packed mix, so one shouldn’t expect constant auditory shenanigans. When appropriate, the soundscape kicked to life well, but much of it focused on ambient information and music.

Audio quality worked fine. Speech seemed natural and concise, without edginess or other issues.

Music offered good range and impact, and effects followed suit. These elements contributed fine dimensionality, with strong low-end at appropriate times. All of this led to a worthwhile soundtrack, if not a memorable one.

The disc comes with an array of extras, and we locate two separate audio commentaries. The first comes from writer/director Scott Derrickson, as he provides a running, screen-specific look at sets and locations, various effects, cast and performances, music and sound design, cinematography and various visual choices, and related domains.

At the start, Derrickson relates that he'll leave screenplay topics for the second commentary, and he remains true to his word, as this solo chat focuses almost exclusively on production subjects. This doesn't mean we find a dry track, though, as Derrickson delves into a wide array of filmmaking choices and turns this into an effective discussion.

For the second commentary, we hear from Derrickson and screenwriter C. Robert Cargill. Both sit together for this running, screen-specific discussion of story/characters, influences, cast and performances, and various production notes.

True to his word, Derrickson largely avoids subjects from his solo commentary, and we find a heavy emphasis on the story/character/cast domains. Derrickson and Cargill form an entertaining pair and make this a lively and informative chat.

Two featurettes follow, and True Crime Authors runs nine minutes, 16 seconds. It includes remarks from Cal State Fullerton Assistant Professor Jason Shepard, Pepperdine University Professor John Struloeff, and authors Steve Hodel and Chip Jacobs.

They discuss aspects of the "true crime" genre. This becomes a pretty good overview, especially due to Hodel's family connection to the subject.

Living in a House of Death spans 11 minutes, 32 seconds and involves Villisca Ax Murder House owner Martha Linn, VAMH guide John Houser, real estate economist Randall Bell, realtor Valerie Torelli, and various VAMH guests.

We get some notes about homes where violent crimes took place here. Some of this seems moderately interesting, but too much of the featurette just feels like an ad for the VAMH.

Five Deleted Scenes fill a total of four minutes, 55 seconds. Most offer minor additions, but we find totally new footage in which Ellison interacts with a problematic neighbor.

Those add a bit of background/depth, but they seem largely superfluous. Not much about the cut footage feels meaningful.

We can watch the deleted scenes with or without commentary from Derrickson and Cargill. They tell us about the sequences and why they cut them. They deliver some useful notes.

The disc opens with ads for Texas Chainsaw 3D, The Last Exorcism, The Possession, and The Haunting in Connecticut. We also get the trailer for Sinister.

When I see Ethan Hawke in a movie, I expect a certain level of quality, even when he appears in the well-worn horror genre. Unfortunately, Hawke cannot redeem Sinister, a slow, fairly pointless tale that fails to deliver any actual scares. The Blu-ray brings good picture and audio along with a nice roster of bonus materials. Sinister found a decent audience but I can’t figure out its appeal, as it seems virtually fright-free to me.

Viewer Film Ratings: 2 Stars Number of Votes: 1
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