Watch Me Entertain Myself!

Sacha Guitry once said, "You can pretend to be serious, but you can't pretend to be witty." Oh yes, I'm the great pretender.
(pilot episode: 20 January 2004)

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Okey Sinister, Okey Sinisis

Once upon a time, there was a little movie called The Blair Witch Project that coughed up big scares and bigger box office returns. Thus the found-footage genre became legit. The genre (is it?) has produced some hit and misses, but so far it has thrived very well with horror and suspense. The appeal there is obvious; it allows the viewers to have that “OMG, did I just see what I saw?!” mimesis, having seen what seems like real footage. The intrinsic difficulty then of found footage films is that there’s added burden on the filmmakers to make the set-up feel real.

Sinister finds an ingenious way to sidestep the found footage difficulty by making it a movie (or movies) within a movie. So you get the delightful shocks of both found footage and traditional horror genres.

I must admit I got through several scenes by squinting my eyes. Mid-film I turned to D and said, “Nasi-stress ako sa pelikulang ito, ha.” It is a fun horror ride, yes. In fact, it really delivers some pretty disturbing images that linger long after you’ve left the theater. But the script also contains inconsistencies and illogical turns that often mar my enjoyment of scare flicks. Horror should have the smarts to keep things real, otherwise you have an incredulous audience going, “Now why the eff did he do just that?!”

Sinister stars Ethan Hawke, and while he is a good actor, I think the intrinsic smarts he exudes as an actor doesn’t work well for him here. His Ellison Oswalt is a novelist desperate to write another bestseller, and he places his family in danger by renting the house where a family was hanged to death in the yard. Oswalt doesn’t believe in the supernatural, but even a skeptic of the occult will know that moving his family into the actual murder scene isn’t a wise thing to do. Had Hawke gone for a more unthinking Oswalt (like, say, how Jack Nicholson can do oblivious so well), maybe I would have believed in him more. Also, as he discovers more and more the hideous murders in the home movies, why doesn’t he say anything to his wife? Didn’t he find it weirdly suspicious that the box of home movies was in the attic? It really took him a long time before he came to his senses. There is a big difference between selfishness and stupidity.

The music is something that I both like and dislike. I have to admit, Christopher Young’s score is so unsettling, it deserves its own concert tour. But I have a problem with horror movies wherein the music practically dictates the mood of the scene. The music is disturbing and disturbingly obvious. It practically screams, “BE AFRAID! BE VERY AFRAID! SOMETHING’S ABOUT TO HAPPEN!” and then something does, but it’s not exactly what you were expecting. So in the end the music actually becomes a cheat.

As I said, Sinister is still a fun ride. Yes, the ending is predictable, but there are enough going on to keep you interested. And while the traditional horror tricks don’t deserve the screams they generate (shock for shock’s sake), the certain images in the found footage part are genuinely distressing.

Grab someone whom you’d wanna grab hold of (and vice versa) when you watch this.

1 comment:

Ronnie said...

The music used in BBQ scene was unnerving.