SINISTER (2012, Scott Derrickson): 5/10
Telegraphs its ending a bit, but that doesn’t cut too much into how creepy it is. A lot of pretty good chills in this, mostly in the second half, but so much of it is just horribly clunky exposition. Doesn’t do much with the formula (didn’t we just see this in INSIDIOUS?) and has all the stock elements — person warning residents of newly haunted house to leave, kooky professor with knowledge of the occult, late-night trips to the attic, doors slamming closed, nobody-believes-protagonist scenes, etc. Really this is as derivative as it gets, but marginally saved by not only the few solid shocks, but also by Ethan Hawke’s lead performance. The guy’s simply a good actor and his best moments here are pleading with his wife to understand his compulsions. “You put our children’s lives at risk!” “At risk of what, more paintings?!?!” Nice to see him keep expanding his range beyond Richard Linklater films (in which he is also terrific — BEFORE SUNRISE may be his best film), and when you think back on his lengthy career, can imagine a Hawke film festival with half a dozen beauties (e.g. GREAT EXPECTATIONS, ALIVE, GATTACA, DEAD POETS SOCIETY, A MIGNIGHT CLEAR, etc.). Anyway, no new ground broken with SINISTER, and some painfully forced storytelling, but it has a sense of humor and you could do worse for a Halloween-season horror movie.