10. Sinister (2012)
Sinister is the first movie on this list and also happens to be the most recent. Despite being the new kid on the block, it most definitely earns it’s tenth spot on the list as a intense and creepy film full of scares, shocks, and cringes. It stands as the best “modern” example of what a classic horror film should be. Sinister smartly checks off all the tried and true cliched horror film boxes and checks them well.
Disfigured, silent stalking antagonist? Check.
Haunted house? Check.
Creepy children? Check.
Blood and gore? Check.
Disturbing theme music? Check.
Dumbfounded protagonist? Check.
Fun to watch? Double check.
Ellison Oswalt (Ethan Hawke) is a down on his luck true crime novelist who hasn’t cracked the New York Times best sellers list in years. Desperate to save his career, Ellison packs his family up and moves them into a new home in a quiet little town where he can work on investigating the unsolved murder of a local family. A family brutally hung off the tree in their own backyard. Or at least that’s the lie Ellison told his family. Because in truth, the house they moved into is the very one previously occupied by the hung family and Ellison knows it. What better way to investigate the savage murder than by taking up occupance at the scene of the crime?
Eventually Ellison discovers a box of old 8mm home movies depicting the ghastly murders of other families that become vital clues into solving the crime. The grainy films are a hoot with amusingly named titles such as “sleepy time” and “pool party” that take on diabolic meanings once viewed. The films all share a common thread in that they all appear to be filmed with handheld cameras and by children which may have something to do with the fact that each murdered family came with a report of a missing child who was never found. Soon, Ellison’s grip on his investigation begins to unravel when his wife suspects foul play and his own son becomes consumed with night terrors that appear to grow worse by the day.
The glue that holds all these normally laughable supernatural circumstances together is the superb performance by Ethan Hawke. Hawke throws himself into film from beginning to end and carries the film wholly on his shoulders. I always thought it slightly odd a Hollywood A-lister would attach himself to what would appear to be a standard B-horror movie. Watching Ellison slowly unravel while juggling secret after horrible secret is an entertaining joy. Add in the shocking 8mm snuff films, the hauntingly repetitive theme music, a bit of the strange, along with a decent take on the internet created Slender Man and Sinister becomes a real scare filled treat.
It’s a shame the inevitable and recent sequel, Sinister 2 couldn’t deliver on the top notch, and surprising, quality of the first one.