#5: ‘Sinister’ (2012)

Scott Derrickson’s “Sinister” had the make up to be just another lame Hollywood horror entry. It stars Ethan Hawke, who as an actor, I really never cared for much up until just this year having recently grown quite fond of the films of Richard Linklater. It was supposedly about a “supernatural writer” (see countless others like 2004’s “Secret Window” or 2007’s “1408” to name a couple) who awakens dark spirits. In essence the pedigree to be just another standard, run-of-the-mill American horror flick. Then, after hearing some positive feedback about it from some friends of mine I decided to give it a whirl. And of all the horror films that I’m going to make mention of over the next week – this is the one that took me by surprise the most.

To me what’s so impressive about “Sinister” are essentially two major elements that were reaffirmed the second time around was 1) the lighting and 2) the use of score. I can honestly say I’ve never seen a film lit quite like this one. The entire film is essentially filmed indoors. And while although if you look closely you can see that certain segments are clearly shot during the day, the creators always keep the blindfolds down smoldering it in darkness. So dark that at many points all there seems to be is one hovering lighting rig looking down. Which can be disorienting because most of the time all you can see is whatever’s in focus. This could be off putting to some. But to me I thought it was completely effective because it constantly had me wondering and asking myself what could possibly be lurking in the shadows (and there are quite a few scares mind you).  Second, the score by composer Andrea Nebal is pitch perfect. The way in which it is used, especially during the scenes of panic, tension, or dread, is really effective in rattling the viewer. In fact, the score is so good that I can only think of 2 others that are comparable in recent memory. One of which is my #1 film that is going to complete this list so I don’t dare spoil it. The second being Mica Levi’s remarkable score from this year’s “Under The Skin”. All three scores that really act as second characters in the film and without them the end result in each one of the films wouldn’t be half as great. Now I know both of these 2 aspects I highlighted are purely cinematic ones, and would be a hard sell for someone not interested in such areas of film and I completely understand that. However, I’m not trying to shy away from how truly terrifying this movie is. It’s the type of movie that you will see images on screen that will be forever embedded in your brain that even if you try to forgot you will never be able to “un see”. Which to me is one criteria of horror that I love if done right and isn’t cheap or exploitative. And in the case of this film, not only does it right but does it with an added cherry on top.

[B+]

 

 

 

Review: ‘Under The Skin’ 6.6.14

This was unlike anything I had ever seen before. Easily one of the year’s biggest indie hits. One that matches the innovation of say Kubrick’s ‘2001’ or Gasper Noe’s ‘Enter the Void’ (2 reference points that I thought of throughout). Here is a director, Jonathan Glazer, who with this, has done a total of 3 feature films in only 13 years, the others being his incredible 2000 debut ‘Sexy Beast’ and 2004’s ‘Birth’. Both of which I also screened prior to watching this film. He also is responsible for some of the 1990’s most influential and original music videos, particularly Radiohead’s “Kharma Police” and Jamiroqui’s “Virtual Insanity”. So, if you’re familiar with either of his other 2 films or music videos, you know that this guy is a total aesthetic artist. This film had me hooked from its first shot, where we see an extraterrestrial being (played by Scarlett Johansson, in what might be her best performance to date) being transported down to earth. But this is far from your typical Science Fiction film. In fact, it’s far from anything I’ve ever seen. I’ll spare any plot details other than that it’s completely hypnotic, unnerving, tense, and suspenseful, and it follows ScarJo as she travels through Scotland (with the Scottish highlands filmed in beautiful, lush cinematography) as she “meets” unsuspecting hitchhikers and preys upon them. Glazer is an auteur with a unique, groundbreaking, and completely innovative style and vision. Along with a chilling and beautifully haunting score by Mica Levi which fits almost like a glove in that I can’t think of an original score off hand that more closely aligns with the images you’re being shown on screen. This literally left my friend and I’s jaws gaping as the house lights went on. As well as a spirited discussion over a pint following. This is already in contention for the year’s best, along with ‘Life Itself’ and ‘Boyhood’. And is the “exact” reason why I go to the cinema. To “think”, to “feel”, and to be totally swept away by something completely unique and original. This is an absolute must see with my highest stamp of approval.

Grade: A-/A