Peter Masheter introduces the film that terrified the audience of Film4’s FrightFest
Director: Scott Derrickson
Starring: Ethan Hawke, Juliet Rylance
It is Sunday 26th August 2012 at the Empire Leicester Square, and the 13th edition of FrightFest has trundled into a forth day of uncharacteristically mediocre programming. Italian showcase Paura has been upstaged by the trailer for Dredd 3D. Several humdrum showings later, anticipated Film4-pick Berberian Sound Studio has to be the film the word ‘pretentious’ was created for.
At this point you can cleave the atmosphere with the knives from a psychopath’s cheese-board. Fans are desperate to be scared – the festival has yet to provide that single word emblazoned on their weekend tickets: Fright. Nevertheless, emerging from the disgruntled haze, Sinister changes the tone of the festival.
Directed by Scott Derrickson, the man behind 2005’s occasionally-scary The Exorcism of Emily Rose, and written by former movie mega-nerd C. Robert Cargill, Sinister twists the haunted house genre around elements of the pervasive ‘found footage’ style. Actor Ethan Hawke adopts his serious mode as a one-time successful true crime author, who moves with his family to a house within which all previous occupants have been murdered. Upon moving in, he finds a box of 8mm films in the attic, including footage of a hanging taking place on the property 9 months before. As he uncovers more murder reels he discovers the evil force’s next target is, inevitably, himself and his family.
The buzz around Sinister suggests that it is shaping up to be the single mainstream horror film of the year that is actually scary. Not ‘jump noise’ scary or body-horror grotesque, but genuinely sustained, heart-thumping, eye-expanding fear. Even FrightFest completists took to the internet to concede that they had indeed been rattled; at the time of writing Sinister is sitting on a smug yet unsustainable 100% on Rotten Tomatoes. For the effect ‘enjoyed’ by the unwitting early birds, the film is probably best seen without watching the over-revealing trailer. Sinister is out in cinemas on the 5th October.