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MPAA Rating: R-Rating (MPAA) for disturbing violent images and some terror

Reviewed by: Steve Warburton

Very Offensive
Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Crime Thriller Supernatural Horror Drama
1 hr. 50 min.
Year of Release:
USA Release:
October 12, 2012 (wide—2,500+ theaters)
DVD: February 19, 2013
Copyright, Summit Entertainment click photos to ENLARGE Copyright, Summit Entertainment Copyright, Summit Entertainment Copyright, Summit Entertainment Copyright, Summit Entertainment Copyright, Summit Entertainment Copyright, Summit Entertainment Copyright, Summit Entertainment Copyright, Summit Entertainment Copyright, Summit Entertainment
Relevant Issues
Copyright, Summit Entertainment

murder of family

child in peril

husband wife relationship

demons in the Bible

Satan / Devil

Is Satan a real person that influences our world today? Is he affecting you? Answer

DEMON POSSESSSION and Influence—Can Christians be demon possessed? In what ways can Satan and his demons influence believers? Answer


FILM VIOLENCE—How does viewing violence in movies affect families? Answer

Featuring: Ethan HawkeEllison Oswalt
Juliet Rylance … Tracy
Fred Dalton Thompson … Sheriff
James Ransone … Deputy
Michael Hall D’Addario … Trevor
Clare Foley … Ashley
See all »
Director: Scott Derrickson—“Deliver Us from Evil” (2014), “The Exorcism of Emily Rose” (2005), “The Day the Earth Stood Still,” “Hellraiser: Inferno”
Producer: Alliance Films
Automatik Entertainment
See all »
Distributor: Summit Entertainment

“Once you see him, nothing can save you.”

Prequel: “Sinister 2” (2015)

“Sinister” scared me, which is tough to do since I’m a veteran moviegoer, and I can usually see a twist from a mile away. But ultimately, it’s just another one of those creepy horror movies where evil wins.

The plot: A true crime writer moves his family into a house that was the scene of a massacre. In the attic, he discovers a box of home movies that show other families being killed. These movies are especially creepy because they’re old movies—grainy footage with no sound—and they do inspire some genuine chills. Gradually, our writer friend begins to suspect that this isn’t just the work of a serial killer, there’s something more malevolent behind these killings.

I should stop there, lest I be accused of offering too many spoilers. I’ll just say this movie has a heavy Occultic undertone. A demon is referenced by name, but I’m not sure if it’s a real demon from Christian legend or just something the screenwriters made up.

Is there anything redeeming in “Sinister”? Sure there is. Toward the halfway point, the writer gets into an argument with his wife over what’s more important, his book or the well-being of his family (it’s hard to take the husband’s point of view here). The writer also converses with a police officer, where he confesses he doesn’t believe in anything supernatural. I suppose that could be taken as a warning that such a materialistic worldview is definite spiritual suicide.

When the movie was over, I left the theater feeling depressed and a little cold. I hate that I feel compelled to watch these movies.

Violence: Heavy to Extreme (hangings, gagged people burned alive in car, drownings, throats cut, lawnmower runs over person's head, axe murders) / Profanity: Moderate to heavy—GD, Good G_d, My G_d, Christ, Oh my G_d (2), Oh G_d (2), f-word, s-words (5), hell (3) / Sex/Nudity: Mild

See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.

Viewer CommentsSend your comments
Comments below:
Neutral—If I had to sum up “Sinister” in one word, it would be disturbing. From the opening sequence of a Super 8 filming of a family being hanged by a tree, things get much worse as the film goes on. I won’t talk about the story or anything, but instead how I felt sitting through the movie. I went in expecting a terrifying horror movie; what I got was a gruesome and visually horrifying experience. The Super 8 films that Ethan Hawke’s character finds are hard to watch and get more and more gruesome. One family gets burned alive inside a chained up car, another have their throats slit in bed, others get run over by a lawnmower and decapitated with an axe. Not everything is shown in detail, but what you do see is very shocking and not for the faint hearted.

But what made this film so disturbing, for me, was the ending. I don’t want to spoil anything, but it is a sick, twisted, unhappy one that will stay in your head for a long time. Not a lot is seen, but what is implied is simply twisted and disgusting. Needless to say, I came out of the theatre feeling drained, shocked and maybe a bit guilty.

This is a film where evil triumphs over good, and the end result is something that doesn’t let go easily. Like I said, I went in expecting a scary movie, and I left feeling disappointed in that respect. There are quite a few jump scares and some freaky moments, too, that made me go “Oh, that is freaky!”. The music also plays a big part in the overall tone of the movie and is very unnerving. Also, I have to mention Ethan Hawke’s performance as Elisson, the main character. He is absolutely fantastic and really made the character believable.

“Sinister” is a very, very well made movie, but it’s hard to recommend, due to its content and horrifying ending (it’s that disturbing). But as a horror movie, this is a shining example of how it should be done. Whilst not scary, it shook me with its grisly subject matter and denouement, so, for that, I take my hat off to the writers and director. However, this is not a nice film in the slightest. Some people will feel uncomfortable watching the Super 8 “snuff” films (some maybe by the supernatural content). “Sinister” is easily the most disturbing (how many time have I used that word??) film I’ve seen in a long time, so just be warned if you decide you have to watch this movie.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Very Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 5
James, age 20 (Wales)
Negative—I agree with the reviewer’s comments: the film received high praise from a press film critic with whom I normally agree, but this was just a slick exercise in jolt-scene filmmaking. The fact that it often relied on the music making a sudden, jarring sound at ear-splitting volume during certain scenes actually detracted from their effectiveness, in my opinion. The story once again featured a sceptic who is forced to believe, against his better judgement, in the supernatural. That it came too late to affect the outcome is actually par for the course in Hollywood, these days. That, though, can be used to telling effect with atheist (i.e. Christ-rejecting: most “atheists” in the West disbelieve in the Biblical God, not the supernatural per se) cinema-goers: point out that the protagonist—who almost invariably loses in these encounters—ALWAYS relies on what he “knows,” which turns out to be false.

Taking them to the NT accounts of Jesus Christ and the apostles defeating such demons simply by words (from the Lord), or by invoking Jesus’s Name, can actually open up a whole avenue of discussion (I know; I’ve tried it!) Surely, though, there’s a Christian filmmaker out there who can make a genuinely unnerving film in which victory through Christ’s Name is presented in a realistic, non-melodramatic way? I shan’t hold my breath.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 4
Gary Davis, age 50 (United Kingdom)
Comments from young people
Positive—First off, I have to admit that I did some reading before viewing the movie because, although I did want to be scared and was looking forward to it, I didn’t want to be blindsided by shocking grisly images. This may have factored into not making the film as terrifying as everyone said. Do not take your young children to this film! There was a family who brought their five year old with them, and I was disturbed! The movie is quite scary. I wouldn’t go so far as to say it is terrifying, personally, but it did have some very creepy and shocking jump scenes, as well as some disturbing images.

Without spoiling anything, be warned that the deaths viewed by Ellison are quite disturbing and frightening in nature and are showed more than once. The camera cuts away from the goriest details but does lead the view up to the moment of impact. Even still, one can see what is playing out before Ellison in the refection of his glasses. I found myself less shocked with these scenes having read about them ahead of time, but this did not take away the horror of what was happening. As I said above, this film is intended to make its audience leap out of their seats and scream, the former I did many times.

I personally enjoyed that aspect, not relying solely on shock element but rather intense moments followed by loud music. The acting quality of the film was better than average for a scary flick. The plot produced more than just a line tying each scare together, something other films in this genre have trouble doing. Content wise I found this film to be better than average. The amount of grisly scenes were minimal and could have been much worse.

A scattering of s**t and a** were present but not oppressive. The only reason I can think for the film being rated R is due to the disturbing nature of the families deaths. Overall I enjoyed this film. It delivered many good jump scenes that sent me flying out of my seat but managed to let me sleep peacefully later that night. This film is only for older teens and adults who can handle the films disturbing aspects. I might also recommend waiting for the DVD release, especially if you are scared easily. The loud speaker and giant screen add to the scare factor, personally enjoyed, but may be too much for other viewers.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 4
Gabriel Carden, age 17 (USA)

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