Looking Back at 2010s Films: Sinister (2012)

12 Oct


By Tanner Smith

Continuing my series of Looking Back at 2010s Films, “Sinister” is a horror film that features the best kind of jump-scare and the worst kind of jump-scare.

The former occurs when the main character Ellison Oswalt (Ethan Hawke) watches one of the sinister snuff films, which features a lawnmower…and suddenly someone is in the lawnmower’s path!

The latter just seems like a lame studio note–the monster, the Bughuul deity, suddenly appears on-screen for one last scare for no good reason other than…Blumhouse Productions wanted one last scare.

(This is not the only time Blumhouse has given us movie endings with cheap jump-scares. They just kept doing it for a while. I think they’ve learned by now not to do it anymore. I mean, would their later films like “Split,” “Get Out,” or ‘The Gift” be any more effective if they all concluded with someone jumping on-screen and shouting “boo”?)

The reason the lawnmower jump-scare worked was because it actually was a legitimate scare. It had appropriate buildup and a scary payoff. It didn’t fake out the audience with a lame joke in which it turned out to be a random noise caused by a friend or a pet or something. (Like a lot of people, I HATE those fakeouts.)

I really like “Sinister.” I like the mystery, I like the looming doom that surrounds the characters, I like Ethan Hawke, and I especially like that it’s co-written by a film critic (C. Robert Cargill of spill.com), someone who respects film audiences.

But there’s one other thing I like about the film, and I cannot believe I neglected to mention him in my original review years ago. My favorite character in the film is Deputy So-And-So, played by James Ransome (who recently starred as Eddie in “It: Chapter Two”). He’s the sheriff’s deputy who helps Hawke’s investigative crime-author character figure just what is going on with these snuff films and this Bughuul figure. He could’ve easily been written as dumb and naive, for comic relief. Instead, while he is starstruck by the author and eager to help him any way he can, he’s very bright, and he even manages to figure out the hidden truths before the author is able to. I don’t think he gets enough credit, even from the author himself who even lists him in his smartphone contacts as “Deputy So-And-So.”

I did see the critically-panned “Sinister 2,” which brings back Deputy So-And-So (no, seriously–he’s the lead character this time, and he’s STILL credited as So-And-So), the only recurring character aside from Bughuul. Unsurprisingly, it disappointed. Maybe I don’t need a sequel. I have “Sinister,” and that’s good enough for me…except for that final jump-scare. (Seriously, f*** off.)

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