Murder home has some sinister secrets
(16, general release, 110 minutes)
Director: Scott Derrickson Stars: Ethan Hawke, Juliet Rylance, Fred Thompson, James Ransone
Good horror films, it seems, are all about creating and sustaining illusion.
No one, in the bright midday sun, really believes in the bogeyman, but get them into a darkened cinema and fill their brains with insidious half-seen terrors and you can get to just about anyone.
The trick is to tap into our illogical subconscious fears, and, in Sinister, director Scott Derrickson does a pretty good job with a slight, but workable, premise.
Ethan Hawke is Ellison, a hack writer who has achieved a certain notoriety by writing lurid novels which are based on true crimes.
He's married with two children, but his obsession with success has made him hard to live with, and he's forever uprooting his family as he goes in search of the next big murder story.
He's just moved them again, and as they arrive at their new smalltown home, his long-suffering wife Tracy (Juliet Rylance) smells a rat.
"Promise me," she asks him, "we haven't moved in two doors down from a crime scene."
He's able to say "no, dear" because they're moving into an actual crime scene.
The house was the site of an apparent home invasion, during which the entire family were killed by being slowly hung from a tree.
Ellison wants this to be the subject of his next book, and can't believe his luck when he finds a box of old home movies in the attic that includes a haunting and eerie film of the family being hung.
But when he finds other reels showing even grislier family murders stretching back decades, he realises that he has stumbled on something far bigger.
As happens with most of these twist-driven thrillers, Sinister runs into trouble once it's forced to provide an explanation for increasingly ghostly goings on.
However, for long periods Derrickson sustains his tension very well, using mood music and heavy shadows to keep you on the edge of your seat.
Day & Night