I know most of the films I’ll be reviewing this month are not very recent but this film was just released In UK on October 5 so I traipsed along to local multiplex and had a look.
The film starts with an 8mm film of four members of a family with bags on their heads and nooses around their necks. They are raised into the air and slowly die struggling for their lives. With no introductory music the film cuts straight into the story. True crime writer Ellison Oswalt (Ethan Hawke) moves his family to a new house where can investigate the brutal of a local family. As they move their stuff into their new house they get a visit from the town Sherriff (Fred Dalton Thompson) and his Deputy (James Ransone). The Sherriff has read Oswalt’s book and while he think his big hit Kentucky Blood was excellent he’s less impressed with his follow-up books. The Sherriff doesn’t want the media circus in his town that seems to follow publication of one of Oswalt’s books. He also thinks moving into the house of murder victims is very poor taste.
Oswalt’s wife Tracy (Juliet Rylance) is generally supportive of his work but it disturbs her and she doesn’t want know anything about the subject of his book, she just want his assurance that they haven’t moved in a few doors from a murder scene and like a politician he assures her that they haven’t and doesn’t tell her that they are living in the murder house itself. They have a teenage son Trevor and a young daughter Ashley who are not happy with moving. Oswalt gets his office set-up and it’s like the HQ of a police murder investigation. Once the family have moved everything in there’s a box of stuff that has to go in the attic (typical, just moved in and they already have junk they don’t need). The attic is empty except for a box and a scorpion. Oswalt drops the box he’s carrying onto the scorpion crushing it. He looks inside the mysterious box and finds an 8mm film projector and several cans of film.
Back in his office he watches the first film and it starts showing the family playing in the garden before it gets to the killings that we saw at the start of the film. This film’s existence raises many questions and Oswalt notes them down and pins them to his evidence boards. The family were all found dead except for the youngest daughter who is still missing. The other films show other families being murdered in different places and different times, the earliest being in the 60s. In one film which features a family being drowned in their swimming pool Oswalt spots a sinister demonic figure. He transfers the films onto a digital video after being reminded of the fragility of film. He discovers the sinister figure is in all the films somewhere in the background and there is a strange pagan symbol painted somewhere on the scene.
Next night Oswalt is awakened when he hears a noise from a box in the kitchen and finds Trevor in the box and he starts screaming when Oswalt goes to him. Trevor suffers from both sleepwalking and night terrors and there is a suggestion in Tracy’s tone that his terrors might come from seeing Oswalt’s work on earlier books hence her insistence on the strict rules that no-one goes in Oswalt’s office and he keeps the door locked
Oswalt is awakened by things going bump in the night but the noise turns out to a small snake in the attic. Oswalt stumbles and falls through a weak board right through the ceiling below. A couple of paramedics come patch him up and he’s happy. He also meets the Deputy who wants an autograph. The Deputy is a fan of his work and wants to help him any way he can with his book and he helps Oswalt get back background information on the other murders and make the connection that the youngest child went missing each time. The Deputy is pretty smart and Oswalt lets him into his office to see his boards. When Oswalt brings up ritualistic elements and the symbol The Deputy gives him the number of a Professor Jonas (Vincent D’Onofrio).
Jonas eventually gets back to him and tells him the symbol is of the pagan god Bagul also known as the child eater. Each murdered family had one member of the family missing, the youngest child. Jonas mentions that people used to believe that the spirit of Bagul lived in the images of him and he could cross into the real world through them so the Christian church had most of the images of him destroyed.
Oswalt is a writer who is now living in shadow of his most successful work but he doesn’t have the same pure desire for justice that motivated him to write that book. Now he is after fame and success and has found inspiration can’t just be switched on to order. He finally realises the danger he’s put his family in but can he really run from Bagul?
This quite a nice tense supernatural horror film which does borrow ideas from other films but I liked the way it was all put together. There have been several recent supernatural horror films that fall apart at the ending but I thought that this one had good ending that was well set up before the payoff twist at the end. There was only one downside to me and that was use of scary things the audience sees but the characters don’t. I know it’s an old technique that is used to build up tension but it wasn’t done very well here and I was almost giggling at one of these scenes. I reckon this film is worth a watch
- Rotten Tomatoes
- Sinister – A Chilling Thriller – Blazing Minds Film Review (blazingminds.co.uk)