There's an intriguing true story buried inside this overly structured drama, and by playing by simplistic screenwriting rules the filmmakers make everything trite and predictable. Fortunately, the cast is much better than the material, and they bring their characters to life with jaggedly engaging interaction and some resonant emotion.
The story centres on Sam (Pine), a fast-talking New York salesman who is in big trouble professionally. So when his estranged father dies in Los Angeles, it gives him a chance to escape. He heads off to see his mother (Pfeiffer) and find out what he has inherited. But the lawyers hand him a bag of cash that he has to give to smart 11-year-old Josh (D'Addario), whose barmaid mother Frankie (Banks) is the half-sister Sam never knew he had. Without revealing his identity, he worms his way into Frankie and Josh's life. But the Feds are catching up with him, and Frankie is about to learn who he really is.
This is one of those films that hinges completely on the characters' inability to talk to each other. So one honest conversation at the beginning would make this a very short movie! But no, the screenwriters force everything into an unnatural formula that completely undermines the genuinely interesting things going on. Even so, the actors manage to hold our interest, mainly due to some terrific chemistry. At the centre, Pine nicely holds his own in scenes with the wonderful Pfeiffer and Banks, while D'Addario proves to be a young actor to keep an eye on. Meanwhile, side characters add texture, most notably Duplass as a neighbour with the hots for Frankie, and Wilde as Sam's frazzled girlfriend.
Continue reading: People Like Us Review
There's a nasty edge to this horror film that makes it much creepier than most, which gives Hawke the chance to give an unnervingly haunted performance. As the script reveals its hideous secrets, the filmmakers really make our skin crawl. Although it's not easy to figure out what the point is, since the whole film seems to be merely an exercise in scaring the audience.
It's all based in true crime, as author Ellison (Hawke) drags his wife Tracy (Rylance) and kids to a new town so he can investigate another unsolved murder. What he hasn't told Tracy is that they're living in the crime scene, an unusually dark house that has a box of home movies in the attic that reveal a much more gruesome horror than Ellison was expecting. The killings at hand turn out to be part of a string of hideous murders that seem to have a supernatural twist.
Indeed, this film takes a very bleak trip into the darkest recesses of the imagination: the deaths on these home movies are so hideous that we can barely watch them. But then, this also means that the film is more unnerving than nine out of 10 horror movies. And Hawke is a solid central character we can identify with, as he's unable to stop digging into the story, looking further into these murders and watching every last home movie even though he knows he should really stop. He gives Ellison an earthy honesty that carries us along with him, even when some standard movie characters pop up, including an angry sheriff (Thompson), his dopey deputy (Ransone) and an expert professor (D'Onofrio).
Continue reading: Sinister Review
Ellison is an aspiring true-crime writer who decides to move his family into the house where a family of four were brutally murdered nine months previous in order to work on his next novel which he is determined will be a success. When Ellison takes a visit to the attic, he finds, in the center of the floor, a single box with a movie projector and several film reels tucked inside. The films have titles such as 'BBQ '79' and 'Family Hanging Out '11' - the latter is the most recent so Ellison sets it up on the projector. The clip shows the family that were recently murdered enjoying one another's company before cutting to an image of the four of them when they killed. Shocked, Ellison passes the videos on to the police to investigate further and notices the only similarity between all the murders of different families in the house on each of the film reels is a recurring symbol which he later discovers is the mark of a pagan deity named Bagul who he is told feeds on the souls of children. Legend has it that children who see the image of Bagul are vulnerable to his attack because he is alive through his own image. When he begins to target Ellison's family, he realises he must escape before they become the next victims.
Continue: Sinister Trailer
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