Ahhhh…the mock documentary.  A branch of the horror found footage genre that seems to have an endless supply.  On rare occasion, more familiar names from the industry get the itch to make them.

digging-up-the-marrow_altAnd so, Adam Green (Frozen, the Hatchet franchise) assembled Digging Up the Marrow.

The film follows Green as he and his cameraman Will Barratt prepare to make a documentary on real monsters hiding in our world.  They are inspired on the journey by a letter from a fan named William Dekker (Ray Wise) who claims to know that monsters are real and how to see them.

The film opens with a montage of convention footage and people Tony Todd, Mick Garris, Don Coscarelli and a whose who of horror talking about monsters.  Adam’s wife Rileah (playing herself, as everyone except Ray Wise is doing in the film) is concerned that Dekker is a crazed fan.

Upon finally sitting down for an interview, Green wonders if he is not dealing with a guy who has lost touch with reality.  And their early forays of sitting out overnight results in rather bland footage, in spite of Dekker claiming to see things.

Then one night, as they are watching claims the monster is directly in front of their hiding spot, when Will turns on his camera light, they are startles (and startle) a creature.  Dekker is upset about turning on the light, worried that the creatures will seal up and leave the area.

The deeper they go into exploring the Marrow (this is what Dekker calls the home of the monsters) the more confused Adam and Will become about what they have seen.  Adams other endeavors (such as his show Holliston) start to suffer as he becomes more obsessed with the stories of Dekker (and who Dekker really is).

Adam becomes disillusioned a bit when Mick Garris and Tom Holland inform him that he is not the only horror director Dekker approached.  He was under the impression he was unique, only to discover he was one of the last, and the first to bite.

When they dig deeper into who Dekker is, it becomes truly dangerous.  There is something creepy about him, and Adam and Will decide to check out the Marrow without Dekker.

Ray Wise is very good in the film, and Adam Green plays Adam Green convincingly.  The film is pretty effective and uses the fake documentary to entertaining effect.  When it comes down to it, I really did enjoy this one.  Green walks the fine line of showing just enough, but effectively using darkness obscure what we are seeing.  The mystery of Dekker is intriguing.

The only real criticism I have is that the very end sequence is kind of confusing.  It is unclear if it is to imply Green just got a terrifying wake up to a reality he should not have toyed with or if it is meant to imply he disappeared.  I had to listen to the audio commentary on the Blu-Ray to be sure.

wicker_man_poster_orange1973’s the Wicker Man, starring the late Edward Woodward and Christopher Lee is one of those hard to classify films.  For one, while it is considered horror, it’s a movie lacking much carnage.  The horrors center around the mystery and the struggles of young, repressed Police Sergeant Howie.

Beware of dreadful Spoilers…

Almost immediately, Sgt. Howie finds himself at odds with the locals, who initially refuse him access to Summerisle, a rather isolated Scottish island, as it is private property.  Once he provides his reason, a letter he has received indicating a child has gone missing from the isle.

Howie is revealed to be a devout Catholic.  He prays fervently, as we see flashbacks to him reading scripture and partaking in communion.  This leads to one of the films more…silly…but memorable moments.  Willow (Britt Ekland) lies in the room next to Howie’s singing a song to tempt Howie, putting his purity to the test.  Howie struggles in his room to fight the temptation.  Did I mention Ekland performs the entire scene naked?

Howie seeks to try and continue his investigation.  When he goes to the local school, he becomes appalled (Howie is like a one man Catholic League).  The teacher (Diane Cilento) is telling the children of the meaning of the penis in their worship.  Howie runs into trouble when people claim the young girl never existed in the first place.

When Howie goes to the Summerisle library, the Librarian shows him the death records, but Rowan is not among them.  He decides it is time to meet Lord Summerisle (Christopher Lee) at the Lord’s mansion.  Howie is surprised to hear he is expected.  While waiting, he looks out the window to see a small Stonehenge like set up where young people are frollicking naked.  Summerisle enters and asks if Howie finds them refreshing, of course, he does not.  Howie becomes more and more incredulous, asking how they function with a false religion.  Know they nothing of Jesus?  But Summerisle proclaims Jesus dead, and the old gods still living.

Howie can barely stand the things Summerisle tells him, giving the history of the island’s citizens turning from Christianity to the old pagan ways.  That evening, when they go to exhume the body of Rowan so Howie can bring it back to determine the cause of death, they discover her casket contains, instead of the young girl’s body, that of a dead rabbit.  The groundskeeper reacts not in shock, but laughter.  Enraged, Howie returns to Summerisle.  Miss Rose tries to say that the rabbit is Rowan.  This further angers Howie.

Howie goes through pictures and is able to locate the missing image from the previous May Day celebrations.  Unlike the other photos (all a young woman surrounded by the Harvest), Rowan is sitting sans harvest.  Howie does some research and comes to a new conclusion.. Rowan is not dead, she is going to be the Mayday sacrifice because the crops failed.

Howie plans to take his plane to the mainland and bring back reinforcements.  But his plane doesn’t start.  He starts to search the island and spies the town members preparing for their May Day celebrations.  They proclaim that the evening will bring a sacrifice.  Howie decides to conduct a house to house search.  The townspeople are surprising cooperative, but his end results are less than he had hoped for.

It is this clash of religions that makes the film so effective.  The joyous celebration of Lord Summerisle and his people as their sacrifice burns is a frightening juxtaposition.  The film is a mystery, with a heavy sense of dread pervading it.  Is Rowan real?  Is she dead?  Watching Howie struggle to find the answers, and also dealing with his temptations, never realizing that he is being played for a fool creates a compelling tale.  Woodward plays Howie both sympathetically and with a repressed rigidity that really sells the character.  His devoutness is never in question.  This is not the typical “Christian Hypocrite” of mainstream film.  Howie is dedicated to his job and faith, and the film never makes light of this.  Of course, not being some terrible hypocrite is really the point of the story.  Even when he is angry, Howie maintains a sense of cool.

On his opposite is Lord Summerisle, whom Lee portrays as always calm.  I am not sure he ever even gets angry, to be honest.  He is a calm, gentle and confident man.  It’s effective watching him and Howie, as Howie never seems able to offend him, but he can kindly get under Howie’s skin.

The three women most prominently featured in the story, seem to represent different ideals of the religion.  Willow is the siren, Miss Rose is the educator and the Librarian the religion’s administrator.

Also notable is the use of music, you could easily argue this is a musical.  The music is fun and folksy, very tied to the folk music of the British isles.  It’s far more effective than one would expect, as these cheerful songs cover a dreadful truth.

One of the reasons the 2006 “re-imagining” of the film starring Nick Cage is such an abysmal failure is it does away with the fight between Paganism and Christianity.  They replaced it with a poorly realized battle of the sexes and a tortured and flawed “hero.”  Howie needs to be less “flawed” and more pure.  Otherwise his character does not truly stand out from the citizens.

In the end, I consider this one of my favorite films, because it is horror, dark and foreboding without relying on cheap thrills and scares.  It’s beautifully filmed, well acted, written and directed.  It’s a film worth checking out.

One final note, but I am blocking it because it is a massive spoiler.

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girls_gone_dead_posterI kept my expectations pretty low for Girls Gone Dead. Considering the biggest names in the film are Beetlejuice (of Howard Stern fame) and Ron Jeremy, wrestler Jerry Lawler and Linnea Quigley (all in bit parts) I aimed pretty low for this one.

Jumping on the Girls Gone Wild craze about ten years to late, the film follows a young woman with a m0m to the right of Margaret White. The girl in question is going on Spring Break with her slutty friends. Once out of the house, everybody gets changed into their “I’m naughty” outfits and start partying.

Then a hooded killer with a medieval war-hammer shows up and starts killing people entirely at random. It ultimately turns out to be the girls really religious ex boyfriend and her mother.

The movie (which apparently needed two directors) is poorly acted, weak in script and general story and lacking a single original moment. I suspected as much going in. Why cover it? Because the film covers one of my least favorite thriller/horror tropes.

The Religious Killer. Not because it cannot be done well. John Doe in Fincher’s Se7en is positively chilling in his logic and reasoning. But the truth is, it is almost consistently done poorly. It is usually revealed that the killer is a sexually repressed deeply religious person. And they are always out to punish sexually active young people. Because, you know…virginity drives people homicidal…?

The reason John Doe worked is that he was not hung up on sex…he was hung up on the society’s lax and casual attitude towards sin. The religious killer in most films seems completely unconcerned about other sins. I am pretty sure most Christians believe murder is a sin, and do not make an exception for the sexually active crowd. Where are the religious killers obsessed with liars or people who cheat the poor?  There are ways for it to be interesting, but filmmakers never seem to aim for interesting with this trope.

GraveEncounters_posterWhen you start your movie off with a montage of people talking about the first movie over the internet? It is not a good sign. Mind you, I do not mean people discussing the events… they are holding DVDs of the first film in there hands telling you what they thought of the film. While not a terrific starting point, Grave Encounters 2 at least is not patting itself totally on the back, as the montage includes people declaring it both the scariest film ever and the worst film ever.

The first film was one of those talked about found footage films that have glutted the horror market. Better than others, but not not as good as the strongest films in the genre, it ended on a rather cliched note, ripping off a series of horror films a bit to closely to be merely an homage.

Grave Encounters was the supposed true final hours of a reality show crew of Ghost Hunters who were locked overnight in a out of commission asylum (run by a mad doctor who committed atrocities on his patients as these places are prone to have been) where they met grim fates. All that was left was the tapes in their cameras that were pieced together to give us the resulting film.

And according to the opening sequence of Grave Encounters 2, it was just a movie. Here in the real world we meet a film student who is either obsessed with the film or thought it sucked or something. His review gets a hit from a mysterious individual who invites him to visit the asylum to determine if it is all real or not once and for all. So he and his friends sneak off to the asylum, which has apparently been completely unattentded to since the first film.

They set up their cameras and then get freaked out, on their way out the door, they are greeted by a police officer who hears noises on the floor above them. In spite of their warnings, he goes on upstairs…fulfilling the requirement that the black guy goes first.

They find themselves trapped and quickly, several cast members are dispatched. There is much running from spooky children and super tall ghosts, walls expanding and doors disappearing. Luckily, they escape into the basement. There, the three survivors meet Lance-the lead from the previous film who has been hiding in the basement going really crazy.

The spirits pit the four against each other, saying they will allow only one person to leave through “the door”…it is a big red door that, when opened? turns out goes no where. Really. I mean it is in the center of a big room, and when Lance (followed by floating video cameras) opens it? It is not a magic portal…he just sees the other side of the room.

The spirits states that the person willing to finish the spirits’ film… that is the person who goes free. Because, of all the things a spirit wants to do? Make movies is apparently one of them. The film closes with the survivor and the producer explaining this was just a movie, just like the last one.

And there lies the problem of this sequel. For one thing, it is a muddled story with lots of confusing logic. Was the first film just a movie? According to the sequel? Yes. Yet, apparently, the lead actor went missing for months, because he has been hiding in the asylum for the entire time. Nobody noticed he disappeared? What happened to the rest of the cast? Did they disappear? Were not families concerned?

The ghosts spend all their time malevolent-and then suddenly have a specific purpose for their terror? And why kill all those random film makers first? And since when were ghosts skilled at sending e-mail? Imagine the creepy film if the scary ghosts had tricked everyone into killing each other.

Another problem is that it takes forever to establish stuff, so by the time the mayhem kicks in, it feels incredibly rushed. The film spends so much time establishing that the leads like to party and making horror movies. But for long stretches, you might forget you we’re watching a movie about people being terrorized by ghosts. The ending is ridiculously confounding, making no sense. Is the sequence with the lead quietly sitting by while the producer assures us this was just a movie…are we supposed to believe this? Or are we supposed to assume that within the confines of the film, it happened, but the producer is either lying or simply unaware?

Grave Encounters 2 fails to illuminate the story that came before it, and relies on cliches ripped off from previous films (just as the original borrowed liberally the House on Haunted Hill remake, so does this one…including a person killed via electroshock therapy and the previously mentioned ghostly Internet).

There are more weaknesses than strengths here. The performances are decent enough, and the effects work ok (if clearly digital). But beyond that, the plot is a mess, the concept half baked (Blair Witch 2 started with a montage of folks talking about the first film…and Encounters 2 manages to succeed as well as Blair Witch 2) and not compelling.

grave-encounters-posterI find those shows about Ghost Hunters amusing. Half the cable networks-including Animal Planet has them. Their overly dramatic reveals of nothing but camera lens flares and static sounds that they pass off as evidence.

Of all the ideas for a found footage film, this is the greatest setup ever. A ghost Hunter show films in an old asylum…a things go to hell. The idea explains why you have all this footage that is grainy and shaky. It is a perfect set up for jump scares and real freakiness.

And aside from a goofy opening, where some guy explains that this is a found footage film, Grave Encounters starts off spectacularly. Sean Rogerson’s Lance Preston is the quintessential snake oil salesman. He and his crew conduct interviews with no regard for fact and flair for the dramatic. When Lance announces he has brought in “psychic” Houston Gray (McKenzie Gray) we are treated to a wonderful sequence of over acting. Houston is clearly a sham (McKenzie Gray is terrific in this role).

The film does a great job as it sets up the scams. The interviews before they are locked in for the night establishes the creepiness of the asylum’s history. Granted, it borrows heavily from the plot of the 1999 House On Haunted Hill in that regards. But, a haunted asylum formerly run by an evil doctor? Winner horror movie concept. After they are locked inside, they start wandering the asylum in the dark. Noone is all that scared, until little noises and shadows and slamming doors start freeking them out.

And that is where it gets messy. The crew starts freaking out…as the events get crazy. But things start to happen that do not make real sense. One guy is pulled into a tub of blood and is suddenly gone. Smoke fills the room and someone disappears. The ghosts rely on the whole warped face effect that became popular on Web videos meant to scare the crap out of you.

The ending is the final point that takes a great idea and strives for no attempt at freshness. It references rips off a sequence from House On Haunted Hill. It squanders this wonderful idea, which could have given the Paranormal Activity films a run for their money falls woefully short.

The film looks good, it really could pass for outtakes from any number of paranormal investigation shows. The actors do a terrific job. Much of the film really works. It is frustrating to me as a viewer that a film that starts out so truly promising could muck it up so far along into the film. It is the final twenty minutes or so that takes this film off the rails.

greystone-park-posterA bit of advice to aspiring found footage filmmakers.  STOP SETTING YOUR FILMS IN HAUNTED ASYLUMS.  I AM NOT KIDDING.  EVEN IF YOUR DAD IS OLIVER STONE.

You readers might think that last line is a joke.  And that is probably because you have not seen Greystone Park.  Sean Stone, son of Oliver Stone, brings us a film that borrows liberally from it’s predecessors.  Sean has worked mostly in the realm of documentary and shorts… But I do not think you should cut a filmmaker new to a genre so much slack that you ignore things that are not excused by being new to the genre.

And yet, Sean Stone thought the cool idea for a horror movie is to do a found footage film set in an abandoned and haunted asylum with a tragic past!  And I get it.  My  hard reaction here is not because the “People Trapped in Haunted Asylum” is a bad idea.  It is not.  It is a very strong idea.  Unfortunately, it has become a crutch for the found footage industry.  Grave Encounters 1 & 2, Paranormal Incident, Episode 50 all used this notion.  And it predates the found footage genre as well…There were films like GothikaHouse on Haunted Hill and Return to House on Haunted Hill and the excellent Session 9.

So, now that I got that off my chest?  Lets begin.

Using the Cloverfield style of footage taped over footage introduces us to Sean and his friends conversing about fear over dinner with his father “Oliver”-played by Oliver Stone…and there is problem # 1.  Yeah, I was not familiar with all the actors…but it was not hard to discover that Sean is Oliver’s son.  So, it begs the question, are we supposed to think this is a story about Sean Stone, son of Oliver Stone, famous film director?  Or was it simply easier for the filmmakers to not have to remember character names?

Anyways, Sean and three of his friends go into the abandoned asylum (Greystone Park was an actual abandoned asylum that looks creepy as hell) to face their fears.  We get quick snippets of old footage of the asylum, which I am unsure how they got to be part of this found footage.  As they explore, they run into scary sounds, dolls and a dining area.  Soon, it becomes apparent they are victims of a practical joke perpetrated by the friends from dinner.

But then it goes horribly wrong and the real ghosts go on a killing spree.  This is all because one character declares that “Ghosts can’t hurt you, right?!”  That is like asking “But…dinosaurs cannot eat you, right?” in Jurassic Park.  The film is an unfortunate mess of cliches taken from other films.  It brings nothing new to the asylum or found footage genres.  The characters are not engaging, so it becomes hard to become invested in the story.

Ignoring traditional found footage rules, they use a musical score and it is not helpful.  It simply hints that these character’s experiences cannot draw you in, so the music tells you the needed beats.  While the visuals are okay, nothing about the film manages to set it apart from other films of the same genre.  It adds nothing, while borrowing nothing.  The film commits the worst of movie sins.  It got boring.  The “exciting parts” were dull.  I had seen this before in movies that suddenly looked better to me in comparison.


Oren Peli made his name with the found footage genre-specifically the Paranormal Activity franchise. With the Chernobyl Diaries, he leaves found footage behind. First, the idea of setting your horror movie in Chernobyl is really a stroke of genius. If you have ever seen photographs from Chernobyl, you know there is a sad and haunted feel to them. To use a place that is so shrouded in an unknown quality (mainly since it is uninhabitable) is a terrific notion for a scary film.

chernobyl_diaries_posterThe Chernobyl Diaries is about three young adults visiting a friend living in Russia.  He convinces them to take a specialty tour of Chernobyl.  Along with another tourist couple, they are taken by Uri (an ex-Russian Military special forces) to wander around Chernobyl.  The deal seems a bit shady, as Chernobyl is not open to tourists for pretty damn good reasons.

Uri plays a practical joke at the edge of a small creek, before they find a strange looking fish lying dead on the ground.  Uri had made a comment earlier in the film that nature was reclaiming the land and it starts to look like this is very true.

Uri leads the group around  to various buildings, ever conscious of radiation via a small detector.  As the day starts to draw to a close the group returns to Yuri’s van.  They discover the fan’s engine is destroyed.  As it grows darker, they start hearing strange noises coming from the buildings.  Uri goes outside with a gun, and after hearing gunfire, two of the young men rush after him.  They soon return, one of the young men wounded from an attack by rabid wild dogs.    However, dogs are not the primary threat.  The friends are not alone.  When the sun rises, they decide to try and make their way to the nearest checkpoint to get help.  They leave behind their wounded friend and his girlfriend.

As they try to find Uri, they slip deeper inside the buildings.  Eventually they discover Uri’s remains and find themselves on the run from something else.  They start losing light and return to the van to find it it completely totaled.  They find that a video camera is still running and watch the footage.  Something has taken their friends.  They hear screams, so the survivors run towards the noise.  They find the girlfriend, and the chase begins.  It turns out that Chernobyl was not abandoned overnight after all.  Some people stayed behind and became mutant hillbilly cannibals.

And that is where it just starts to fall apart.  It turns out that they were inside one of the reactors, causing the leads to rapidly fall ill with radiation poisoning.  How have these mutants survived so long apparently living in the reactors and apartments nearby?  And cannibal mutants?  Hasn’t that idea pretty much been rammed into the ground?  The sense of mystery seemed loss.  It would have been more interesting had the mutations been something other than diseased humans.

It is also a bit hard to follow, at times you would think you were watching a found footage film in the jerky camera moves where it seems like the cameraman is rushing to catch up with the characters.  It certainly has it’s entertaining moments (Uri is a fun character) but the story becomes less compelling as you start to know more of what is happening.

the_final_girls_posterYou can go one of two ways with a horror comedy.  Either you can show your disdain for the genre by mocking it…or you can pay a generous homage to it.  Todd Strauss-Schulson’s The Final Girls goes the second route, and it pays off.

The film tells the story of Max (Taissa Farmiga) whose mother Nancy (Malin Ackerman) is a struggling actress whose biggest claim to fame was a slasher film from 20 years ago.  Upon losing her mother in a car wreck, Max has quietly moved on as best she can.  She is begged by Duncan (Thomas Middleditch, Silicon Valley) to attend a special screening of the first two films in the franchise that made her mother famous.

In a freak accident Max, her friends Gertie (Alia Shawkat, Arrested Development), Vicki (Nina Dobrev, the Vampire Diaries), Chris (Alexander Ludwig, the Hunger Games and oddly enough a completely different film called Final Girl) and Duncan find themselves trapped within the original Camp Bloodbath.  As they try to survive the film, Max finds an opportunity to reconnect with her mother through her character Amanda.  This is a lot more effective than I expected.  Farmiga and Ackerman connect quite well.

The film manages to have fun with the tropes of the genre and earn their laughs.  Rather than go for Scary Movie Parody, the jokes are smarter and more fun.  Also, while acknowledging the exploitation elements of slasher films, the film itself tends to avoid cheap nudity.  There is a gag where a way to attract the killer of the film, Billy, a woman needs to just start stripping.  Plenty of directors would have used this as a cheap excuse for gratuitous nudity, yet the nudity is all off-screen.

The Final Girls is a horror comedy worth seeing.

cooties_posterKids are mean.  We all know that.  Cooties just takes that to the next level.  Cooties opens with the most gruesome images possible.  Chickens being ground into chicken nuggets. Because tainted chicken nuggets will cause stuff.

Then we meet Clint (Elijah Wood), an aspiring writer making ends meet as a substitute teacher.  He has no real heart for it…he uses his class to get notes on his horror novel.  In the midst of a reading, the class bully is attacked by by a girl he was teasing, getting a severe bite.

Soon, the teachers find themselves trying to survive in a school of zombie children.  They hope to hold out in a room, but this is a horror film.  Mayhem cannot be avoided.

And a hilarious massacre it is.  The film’s zombie still behave like kids, they run, they jump, they play with grown ups by ripping them to pieces.  Just like my nephews.  But seriously, the film takes an absurd premise and has a lot of fun with it.

While there is nothing truly original in the setups, the writing makes great use of cliched things like love triangles, absurdly overbearing gym teachers, clueless adults, etc.  The film has fun with it’s cliches, rather than hiding behind it to pretend to have a plot.

Along with clever writing, the film is populated with terrific comedic character actors such as Rainn Wilson, Nasim Pedrad and Jack McBrayer.  Elijah Wood and Alison Pill are terrific fun as well.  And Leigh Wannell (one of the few actor’s known for his straight up horror roles) is entertaining as an oddball science teacher.  Oh yeah, and Jorge Garcia from Lost is quite entertaining as a stoner school crossing guard.

Much like Tucker and Dale Versus Evil, the film is quite gory, yet somehow manages to not overpower the comedy.  The effects are solid and help sell the horror side of the film.  Simply put, I was laughing throughout the film, and was engaged by the characters through the entire film.

Sinister Times (Sinister, 2012)

Last year, a movie called Insidious was released.  Director Scott Derrickson saw that and set about discussing ideas with the guys who produced Insidious.  What Derrickson and his team have produced is Sinister.  What exactly is it?

Ethan Hawke is Ellison, a real crime writer who  hit it big with his first novel (partially because it helped expose shoddy police work and free an innocent man) but has seen decline in the years that followed.  This is hot home in that the only book people ask him to sign in the film is that first book.  He believes that if he can just find that one story for a new book…he can return to that former glory.

To this end, he moves his family into a home where the previous family was murdered and one of the children disappeared.  Ellison hopes to crack the mystery, maybe even help find out what became of the missing child.  To make this possible, he moves his family into the very home where the previous family was killed.  When setting up his office, he goes into the attic, and discovers an old box marked Home Movies.

In the box, Ellison finds a set of super eight films and a projector.  This discovery sets in motion a series of events that leads to a most inevitable ending.  As he watches each film and starts to research what he sees, he finds the story growing and growing into something…terrifying.

As thrillers and horror films go, Sinister is a strong story.  It uses some risky devices, and in a lot of hands, this might have become a Hostel style gore-fest.  Instead, Derrickson will often shy from graphic violence in favor of unnerving the viewer.  In one scene, we are focused on Hawke- causing the screen behind him to be blurry-we know what’s happening, but Hawke’s horror is telling us what we need to know.  And another nicely shot reflects a portion of the screen in Ellison’s glasses.  The film quickly will cut away from possible gore, yet not hide from the horror.

The audio of the film really absorbs the viewer.  It is hard to tell where sound effects and musical queues are ending or beginning.  Music will be punctuated with a sound that relates to the (silent) super 8 image (such as a lawn mower).  You will hear woven into the music the sound of the super 8 projector.  The sound department and composer Christopher Young provide support to Derrickson’s story that pull you inside the story.  There are musical moments still worming through and haunting my brain.

Derrickson, his cinematographer Chris Norr and film editor Frédéric Thoraval create an incredibly strong visual sense.  The repeated choppy shots of Hawke splicing film or threading film through the projector creates a frenetic sense of urgency and he works his way through each horrifying film reel.  There is a wonderful shot of Hawke falling asleep on his couch and the scene going from night to day.

Throughout the film, Hawke’s Ellison talks about his legacy, his desire to have one more shot.  His wife struggles to reach through that to get him to see his family should be his center.  The problem is, he thinks that is exactly what is driving his desire to break down the wall of success.  It’s for his family.  We get to see footage of a younger Ellison being interviewed where he argues bringing justice trumps any feelings of fame and the importance of family over fortunes…we see he has lost his way these things…or maybe he never believed them in his heart.

Along with Ellison’s struggles between the hope of fame and his family, there are metaphysical questions regarding spiritual things, media and how it changes the nature of human kind.

In light of the various themes, the film’s final spoken line is both tragic, chilling and apropos.

Sinister is a powerful experience.  Along with the visuals and audio, Hawke is compelling in his role as a man unraveling.  He is grasping for a hand to grab hold of, but he’s being dragged further into a despairing abyss.  I would have to say this is probably the best serious horror experience I have had this year.

Also, a movie monster that is a snappy dresser.  Love those.