A frustratingly not-terrible action thriller.
"Sinister" is a story made of darkness: mysterious loud bangs in the attic, distant moans from the dead, vulnerable children, an egomaniac crime writer and his long-suffering wife, who is plenty fed up even before she discovers he has moved his family into the same house where horrifying murders took place.
The movie opens with four people standing with nooses around their necks and hoods over their heads. From above the frame, a power saw cuts off a tree limb. As it falls, its weight hangs the victims. Soon after Ellison Oswalt and wife Tracy (Ethan Hawke and Juliet Rylance) move into a spacious suburban house, we can see through the kitchen window that the hanging tree, with a distinctive split branch, is in the backyard.
What kind of a psycho would move his family into this house? Even the unfriendly sheriff tells him it's in "very poor taste." But the house was priced to sell. Almost immediately Ellison discovers it was no bargain. In the attic, he finds a box labeled "Home Movies," containing reels of Super-8 film and a projector to exhibit them.
"Sinister" is an undeniably scary movie, with performances adding enough human interest to give depth to the basic building blocks of horror. Ethan Hawke plays an introverted, driven man who wrote a best-selling, true-crime book some years ago and is convinced a book about those ghastly hangings will be another success — especially since one member of the doomed family is still missing.