We look at SINISTER on the occasion of the release of the new film from Scott Derrickson : DOCTOR STRANGE.

We had completely missed the first SINISTER (2012), thinking that this was yet another production horror without originality… On this point, it is difficult to contradict completely our first intuition, because, like 90% of horror films since Blair Witch, no element comes frontally redefine the genre – such as that proposed recently Unfriended.

No: the high quality of SINISTER rather of this reorganization intelligent influences and legacies. In the light of the trailer, were expecting something very specific… And in the background, all the typical elements of this kind of production horror are there: a town quiet, murders strange, a united family, a father, a novelist, children, a survey, an attic, floors that squeak, a boogeyman, “ghosts” in the house, etc., But Scott Derrickson, following his own pace as he had done with The Exorcism of Emily Rose (2005), chooses to give a particular reading of these elements. Already, SINISTER stands out with an excellent work or formal aspect of audio visual knows how to be surprising, to embrace the frankly creepy/disturbing, when one expects a simple succession of jumpscares packed in a scenario pretext gifts we know so well the various components. The film focuses on certain aspects rather than others, thus playing to our expectations and especially transposing the usual combo empathy/suspense film genre, horror, in a discourse on the relation of the spectator to the medium of cinema.

The result, if it does not serve as a fascinating obsessions of the author as in the adolescent and family, It Follows (based on the same principle appeals to the collective unconscious of genre cinema), has the merit of being put fully at the service of the viewer. Its felt, its involvement, its stimulation !

The “awesome” first scene of the film thus raises the stakes: the nature hypnotico-disturbing of its staging, audio-visual obliges us to observe all the details of the scene (without necessarily understanding beyond the murder itself) and we are already in the skin of the one who will analyze later in the video, Ellison Oswalt. The process of empathy begins even before the presentation of the protagonists! For us as for Oswalt, he will dissect a film, a found footage more specifically, to understand the meaning and the purpose.

The found footage and the sound track of SINISTER : the major strengths of the film

Each video shows in concrete terms, the killing of a family. A kill, filmed in super 8 (image dirty and grainy), in an almost-plan-sequence enhancing the realistic look – almost snuff – these found-footages, and as Ellison Oswalt, as well as for us spectators, voyeurs-accomplices. A killing that takes on the appearance of a montage of images around a tilt axis in the horror, with a side of scenes of family happiness, and the other the staging of the murder of that family. The true element of genius of these moments, making them memorable and unique, and by extension gives its personality to the film from Scott Derrickson, this is undeniably their sound track. A sound track extradiégétique (the super 8 does not have), which we is exclusively intended !

Like the images, the sound track is not immediately decodable, and requires some analysis to understand the depth and the interest. first, there are (superimposed moments of family happiness) a melody sweet that we can very quickly identify it as a nostalgic and comforting… The sound track corresponding to the idea of bliss is seen, however, soon plagued by other, more difficult to identify as mixed, each evoking something specific. You hear these gurgling noise Cronenberg-links, sounds organic and visceral punctuated by other noises very deaf, consisting of low pure, supporting the murders themselves. Sounds muffled (as if we bâillonnait the victim haha…ha). The musicality of this glauquerie comes to types of complaints crooning, referring to the prayers macabre style KuKluxKlan, or masses satanic. Then, wrapping all of this sounds indus very mechanical, ones own projectors, super 8 (which uses Oswalt to view the snuffs), constantly reminding the presence of the machine filming, AND one showing the film and thus returning the audience to its status as a voyeuristic; these various sound tracks are well mixed and interleaved in an effect loop and echo, strengthening their appearance frightening, and disturbing – all remind us of what we can hear in the video games Silent Hill at the passages in the other world.

But enough explanations, here is the nice introduction of the film :


Comes as a result of this horribly captivating first scene, the phase of presentation of the characters and the environment – as in any horror film. This is very important, because it is an anchor number that encourages the audience to have confidence in its own certainties as to what he will see.

This phase, intelligently conducted, including through the management of information, will be made by two ways.

In the first place, a dialogue with the sheriff. The latter, hostile, allows us to reconstruct the history of the protagonist Ellison Oswalt (as well as that of his family). We begin to glimpse the report of Oswalt at the scene of the introduction… First thrill.

Then, the presentation of the members of the family Oswalt by the interaction between them. Him, in the pure tradition of King-ienna, author of books in search of a new success, came to investigate the murder of the “first stage”. She, his wife, supportive and loving, having, however, its own limits regarding the submission of a de facto union… and Then the children presented through a single stage showing their uprooting. The family moved only on the impulse of the father, to settle on the places “” close to the crime. All are thus subtly introduced, not by their psychology or their experiences, but by the attention that Ellison their door, that is to say, dependent on its investigation work. By them, our report is empathetic to the investigation and that the investigator himself, is strengthened.

The first interactions between the family and the new environment will be so very… classic. Until the discovery of the first clue: a box found (obviously) in the attic, a pandora’s box containing a whole bunch of video glaucous, including that view in the introduction of the film. Oswalt is going to become this intermediary between the viewer and the film, eager as we, to understand the meaning of it. The covenant between us and Oswalt is sealed: his report to the inquiry also becomes our own, we will be able to dive progressively into the investigation, in mental instability, and in the paranormal.

The talent of directed by Scott Derrickson (and, incidentally, ofEthan Hawke, through his intense interpretation), is to make SINISTER as a balanced dosage of the three genres. Or rather, it is to never minimize one for the benefit of the other. In concrete terms, the vision of these videos triggers a process of investigation, monologues, introspection and discussions extériorisantes, as well as a gradual shift in a dimension that is at once psychological and horror – aspects of interacting intelligently between them.

“In its classic appearance, Sinister cache is a film rich in interpretive trail, worn by a glamorous formal labour and involving the viewer. “

In a tour de force of empathy (we, watching a movie where a character is watching a movie), we are placed in the same state of paranoia and misunderstanding that his main character, locked in a kind of mental space, unable to discern the reality of the unreal. We have no choice: we must seek in our own knowledge of the cinematic codes of horror and the fantastic, a rational explanation of the various and many supernatural events. Coincidences, serial killer, insanity, ghosts, child killers, boogeyman… Oswalt, like us, interprets a lot but do not know finally never what to expect or what to believe. The stimulation rises and crescendo up to the conclusion… Where our identification with Oswalt suddenly becomes disintegrated to offer us an explanation. That we judge it to be relevant and credible or not, it remains without concessions – which is to his honor !

To go further in the reasoning, SINISTER is a mise en abyme of the very principle of cinema, operating and the viewer that creates the supply and demand. We can thus see a sort of autobiography of the box prod BLUMHOUSE, the latter being precisely created by the found footage (Paranormal Activity,$ 125 Million of revenue for a budget of$ 25,000), but not hesitating to exploit a license until the marrow, swapping the element of surprise to an efficiency tenfold. In the case ofEllison Oswalt, the viewer knows what he exposes himself, knows that he will not be surprised, but continues to travel in the halls in droves to take his dose, via these sequels (paranormal Activity = 4 suites.. Insidious, 2 suites, Sinister 2, etc)

If SINISTER can be seen as stilted and unnecessarily long… We choose to see it as ultra-consistent, adopting the repetition of the famous MO (Modus Operandi) specific to serial killers. The found footage is the time index, weapon of the crime and signature, and the image of the film itself, gradually gaining in accuracy and efficiency. The staging is both simple and very singular, some of the most atmospheric of the genre. As to the substance of the story, playing of course on our everyday fears, it reminds us of the best hours of Stephen Kingor Hitchcock. In short. Under its appearance common, SINISTER is rich and exciting. Definitely a great movie not to miss.


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