Sinister (Blu-ray) (2012)

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Released 14-Aug-2013

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Horror Main Menu Audio & Animation
Featurette-True Crime Authors
Featurette-Living in a House of Death
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 2012
Running Time 109:37
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Ads Then Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Scott Derrickson
Alliance Films
Icon Entertainment
Starring Ethan Hawke
Juliet Rylance
Fred Dalton Thompson
James Ransone
Michael Hall D'Addario
Clare Foley
Rob Riley
Case Standard Blu-ray
RPI ? Music Christopher Young

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English DTS HD Master Audio 5.1 (1920Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.40:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 1080p
Original Aspect Ratio 2.40:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement Yes, Apple Computers
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis


Once you see him, nothing can save you.


   Troubled true-crime writer Ellison Oswalt (Ethan Hawke) has brought his family to a new house without telling them that its former occupants were murdered in grisly fashion. One child of that family remains missing – presumed dead. Ellison had found brief fame with a prior novel, but inspiration has since dried up and he hopes the move to a real crime scene will provide the impetus he needs. Whilst exploring upstairs his curiosity is aroused by a box of home Super8 videos sitting in the attic which he proceeds to view. To his horror the videos show the gruesome murders of a number of families, although the perpetrator is never shown. Realising that he is onto the trail of a serial killer, Ellison decides to keep this knowledge to himself rather than informing the local police. His relationship with the local authorities is already strained because of the explosive nature of his former novel, and the police poking around now would obstruct work on what he hopes will be a best-selling book.

    As events in the house get stranger and stranger, Ellison’s wife Tracy (Juliet Rylance), kids, Trevor (Michael Hall D'Addario) and Ashley (Clare Foley), get dragged into proceedings until eventually Tracy finds out the house’s history. Needless to say she is not happy with this revelation and the relationship becomes even more strained. Ellison retreats into his work and closer viewings of the home videos reveal strange symbols and a blurry figure that might or might not be the killer. A friendly deputy sheriff (James Ransone) offers to find some information on previous murders that Ellison thinks might be linked, and gradually the clues start to pull together. After skyping with a Professor Jonas (Vincent D’Onofrio) who is versed in the occult, Ellison becomes convinced that there is more to these crimes then just serial killings, and decides that he and the family should move back to their old home.

    If you suspect that the danger won’t diminish with the house move then you’d be correct. Ellison soon finds himself slipping further into the mystery with the killings and his family now irrevocably linked.

    From the opening Super8 footage Sinister fills the viewer with dread and anticipation that is, at times, very uncomfortable. Director/Writer Scott Derrickson, along with Co-Writer C. Robert Cargill and Editor Frédéric Thoraval, have crafted together a thoroughly nasty series of vignettes that prove the horror genre still has something to offer. Thankfully the only “found home videos” on screen are the short murder scenes, and “shaky-cam” has been banished. The framing of particular scenes was skillfully done so that you are just waiting for something you just know must appear behind the subject. Sometimes it does, and sometimes it doesn’t, but either way you are gripped with anticipation. It’s fair to say that Sinister has more than its fair share of cheap scares, but in this instance they are done well and never fail to work. I did keep wondering though why Ellison is continually traipsing around the house in the dark as in similar circumstances any sane person would have the floodlights going.

    As far as character development is concerned Hawke is particularly good at playing the obsessed writer with a dark side, although the obvious connection with The Shining is a bit blatant. The rest of the cast are less important but nevertheless do well enough although the acting of some of the “kids” was wooden. For me the introduction of psychic professor Jonas was a bit too contrived for my liking although the closing revelations by the professor did provide some additional punch.

    Sinister is a welcome addition to the horror genre that is very well made and truly scary without descending into the grotesque.

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Transfer Quality


    This transfer is presented in its cinematic 2.40:1 aspect at 1080p. For the most part Sinister is an excellent example of what can be done with HD digital cameras. Although lacking the “warmth” of film, this effort avoids the flat two-dimensional look common with digital video. Close-ups show great detail and the colour is usually bright and vibrant. At time the outdoor shots looked a little too saturated, but I assume this was to contrast with the largely dark interior. My only criticism is that some of the darker scenes lacked a bit of shadow detail which made the individual elements hard to make out. The “home video” elements were intentionally of pretty poor quality – so much so that I thought the director perhaps made them unrealistically bad. Overall the video quality was excellent and would have been reference quality if the shadow levels had been less murky.


Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    The default DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 at around 2,000Kb/s is a master class in how to deliver an effective horror movie sound experience. The surrounds are never overused but every bump and thump and squeak is convincingly placed to make the most of a home theatre experience. LFE use is a standout with some ultra-low level moments delivering real grunt to proceedings. A lot of the time there was a pervasive low level rumble in the background which was hard to place at first but no doubt included to elevate the atmosphere of dread. The front sound stage was used effectively and of course voice synchronisation was perfect. Of special note is the film score by Christopher Young which is simply brilliant in this movie. Using all speakers at various times it is both effective and unsettling without being formulaic.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use




    Animated menu with audio.

True Crime Authors (9:16)

    HD Video. LPCM 2.0 at 1536 Kb/s. Various talking heads including true crime authors discussing the genre.

Living in a House of Death (11:31)

    HD Video. LPCM 2.0 at 1536 Kb/s. A shallow but interesting featurette focusing on houses that have had horrific crimes occur in them. Most of the discussion is on a house in Iowa, United States, which was the site of a particularly gruesome murder in 1912, and which is now a tourist attraction.



R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    Region A Blu-ray features 7.1 DTS-HD MA audio and additional features: Audio Commentaries by Scott Derrickson and a second one with Derrickson and co-writer Cargill, and Deleted Scenes with Optional Commentary by Scott Derrickson. This makes the Region A import very much superior to the local version.


    No doubt Sinister is a horror film that relies heavily on a formula that has endured since the genre was first put to film. That it succeeds so well is a credit to the writers and director because it could so easily have been another watch and forget entry on the movie hire shelves.

    The video quality is excellent.

    The audio quality is excellent.

    The extras are meagre but interesting.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Mike B (read my bio)
Wednesday, September 25, 2013
Review Equipment
DVDCambridge Audio 751bd, using HDMI output
DisplayPanasonic TH-58PZ850A. Calibrated with Digital Video Essentials (PAL). This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Digital Video Essentials (PAL).
Amplificationdenon AVR-4311 pre-out to Elektra Theatron 7 channel amp
SpeakersB&W LCR600 centre and 603s3 mains, Niles in ceiling surrounds, SVS PC-Ultra Sub, Definitive Technology Supercube II Sub

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