Sinister (2012) is a movie which always comes to mind when I’m asked by friends to suggest which contemporary horror movies they should watch. It is honestly one of the few that I like which has been produced within the last five years. Since the second instalment of what is, hopefully, going to be an interesting and watchable franchise, will be out in Maltese theatres later on this month, I decided to re-watch the original movie once more, in order to refresh my memory.

Sinister opens with the usual horror movie premise – a family is moving into a new home, which has a horrifying and violent past. Nothing original there. However, unlike other movies, the family in this case is moving into said house on purpose, or at least, the father, played by Ethan Hawke, is. The main character is in fact a writer who wants to investigate and write a story on the murder of the family who used to live in the same house. Four members of the family had been hanged from a tree in the yard of the house, while the youngest daughter had mysteriously disappeared. The movie premise starts slowly, while we are introduced to the writer’s family and their mutual issues, characters and relationships. We are aware that the main character himself has various published novels under his belt, but only one best-seller, as the other books were failures. He would, in fact, do anything to write another successful novel again.

While clearing out the attic (where else?), he discovers a mysterious box of ‘family home movies’, together with a projector. As he starts watching them, the writer realises that the footage he’s watching concerns more than one family, and spans many years. Horrified, he continues to watch the different film-reels, which portray the families in their day-to-day lives, and realises that the person taking the film is secretly spying on them. The ‘home-movies’ however, all have terrifying conclusions, as they document the slow murder of each of these families, minus one child, who is always reported ‘missing’.

This movie is surely not for the faint-hearted, especially when it portrays fathers, mothers and small children being hanged, drowned, set on fire, and killed in various violent ways. The impact of the scenes is ghastly, and the dawning horror and realisation of the main character, as he connects the dots of these serial killings, is a perfect mirror of the feelings of the audience, that is, ourselves.

The pace of the story is masterful, the plot enticing and terrible. The actors are quite believable, especially Ethan Hawke, whose portrayal of the washed out writer is expertly executed and vibrant with possibilities. It is strange how most ‘good’ horror movies always end up focusing on children somehow, as though when there are children involved, things naturally get creepier. Anyway, I do not want to give away any spoilers, however, rest assured that any horror fan will definitely remember this movie and will want to watch Sinister 2, as well.