"Sinister" has managed to defy the usual expectations of the horror-film genre, and critics have largely met the quasi-found-footage movie with praise.
Though some note the overuse of horror tropes, most critics have praised "Sinister" for a strong lead performance from Ethan Hawke and the movie's genuine scares.
Here is what the critics are saying about "Sinister."
"In 'Sinister,' Ethan Hawke plays a down-on-his-luck true crime writer desperate for a hit, who moves his family into a house in which the previous occupants died under ominous circumstances. That turns out to be a big mistake. He soon discovers a box of old home movies, actual filmstrip movies with the necessary projector even, in the attic that seem to be a series of snuff films, families murdered over decades with only fleeting glimpses of a mysterious, ghoulish figure pointing to who is behind it all." — Mark Olsen, Los Angeles Times
"Hawke plays Ellison Oswalt, a true crime novelist desperate to repeat the success of his best seller a decade ago. Sporting an elbow-patched cardigan and thick glasses, Hawke is fine if clichéd as an egomaniacal author so starved for fame he moves his unwitting family into the home of a family hanging — the movie's opening scene." — Scott Bowles,
The Supporting Cast
"Three supporting characters are effective. Fred Dalton Thompson is the sheriff, whose initial hostility later seems only reasonable. James Ransone is his deputy, a crime buff who is star-struck by the famous writer and signs on as a volunteer researcher. (He dreams of being cited in the eventual book: 'You know, like thanks to Deputy So-and-So, without whose invaluable help...'). And then there is Vincent D'Onofrio, as a university professor of the occult and mythological, who opens up a line of possibility that eventually saves the ending from being a red herring. Yes, the ending is horrifying, but I don't believe in that stuff. I'm pretty sure I don't."— Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times
The Found Footage
"My favorite thing about 'Sinister' is derived from Ringu, though in a way that connects it to a film I didn't even care for that much: last summer's 'Super 8.' It's the notion of grainy amateur footage, shot with a primitive, ramshackle camera, as a looking glass into the past — the world of analog mystery. In 'Sinister,' digital technology (like the computer onto which Ellison transfers the scratchy old films) is lit by rationality, whereas Super-8 footage, in its blurry shadings and fuzzy warm colors, has a lack of exactitude that allows it to contain ghosts." — Owen Gleiberman, Entertainment Weekly
The Final Word
"As usual with ghost stories or stories of the occult, the fear dissipates a little once the (in this case, absurdly elaborate) mythology comes into focus, and they've tossed in a boy with night terrors just to crank the machine that much more. But scary is scary, and Sinister moves with a full-throttle intensity — and residual creepiness — that's occasionally shameless and overwrought, but hits like a battering ram." — Scott Tobias, A.V. Club
Check out everything we've got on "Sinister."