Halloween Scene: Sinister (2012)

sinister posterI consider myself to be a pretty jaded horror fan. After seeing so many of these things in my earlier days, I like to think it takes a lot to scare me. As I mentioned in the most recent episode of my dad podcast called The Pop Poppa Nap Cast, the first few decapitations you see on screen might freak you out, but eventually you get used to it, strange as that may sound. Sure, I’ve been scared by movies. In fact, I’m working on a list of the 10 movies that scared me the most over the years and I think I might have to make room for Sinister.

I’d heard a few things about this film directed by Scott Derrickson (The Last Exorcism Of Emily Rose) and starring Ethan Hawke. Nothing specific mind you, just that it was a really original take and that it was pretty darn scary. I’d seen a few of the other Blumhouse films like Paranormal Activity 1 and 2 and Insidious. I dug those flicks, but they weren’t super scary, so I wasn’t sure what to think. Still, with Halloween creeping closer and closer, I figured I’d challenge myself with something that’s supposed to be pretty eerie.

And you know what? It is. It’s really damn creepy. I won’t get into too many details or spoilers here because this movie really works best when you go in knowing nothing, but the story follows Hawke’s true crime novelist Ellison Oswalt who moves into the house a family was murdered in to research his next book. As the story progresses we come to understand that Ellison not only has the creative desire to write that I can relate to, but the dragon-chasing need to get back on top in his field, to be beloved, famous and rich again.

The problem? This case is getting creepy. Not only does he repeatedly wake up hearing strange sound at night, but he also discovers a mysterious projector and several home movies in the attic. But these aren’t any normal films, they’re videos of people getting brutally murdered, many of which feature a creepy man in a white, red and black mask with stringy hair. The more Ellison uncovers about the mystery the more strange occurrences he experiences including several that involve his son and daughter.

Usually, I let these things simmer for a night or two (either to form my thoughts or because I’m generally lazy), but I’m writing this one up immediately after watching because it freaked me out so much. There’s a strong sense of dread and atmosphere built up as Ellison descends deeper and deeper into this mess that we know can not end well. But, there’s one scene in particular that had me squeezing my remote so hard I thought it might snap. Let’s just say I knew there were five elements from a previous scene and was counting them down in my head, wanting them to immediately leave the screen as soon as they appeared. Yeesh, I haven’t felt that nervous and freaked out because of a movie in ages. When the first showed up, I gasped out loud which almost never happens anymore.

I actually watched this movie in two chunks because I started while my wife was putting our daughter down for the night and then she came out. The timing could not have been worse considering it was right after the above scene and I went into our kitchen to switch out the laundry. I heard her walk down the hall, but then I turned around she my wife’s standing there holding one of our daughter’s baby dolls by the neck. I don’t usually let these things scare me in the real world, but that got me. Also, I’m definitely going to get a little skitchy every time the kid tells me to shush now.

So, it wold be pretty safe to say that I liked Sinister and that it scared me, which is — I assume — what it set out to do, so mission accomplished. I appreciate that the movie earned 98% of its scares instead of going for quick sound or fake out gags. I wasn’t such a fan of the repetitive feel that came from Ellison walking into a dark room and NEVER turning a light on or the fact that he woke up to creepy noises so many times, but such greatness came from those moments that it almost didn’t even matter.

Trailer Time: Once Upon A Time In Vietnam, Getaway & Pompeii

Once Upon A Time In Vietnam (formerly Monk On Fire) has obvious ties to Spaghetti Westerns considering it’s themes and title, but it also looks to mix action, fantasy and history in a way that we can get behind. Dustin Nguyen directed and stars in this flick that will see Vietnamese theaters on August 22nd. Here’s hoping for a quick, but good dubbed version to makes its way to the States without too much delay. [via Asian Movie Pulse]

If you watch network TV on a regular basis, you’ve probably seen a good deal of commercials for Courtney Solomon’s Getaway starring Ethan Hawke, Selena Gomez and Jon Voight. Hawke and Gomez seem to spend a good deal of time in a super fast car driving around and committing crimes for Voight in order to get Hawke’s wife back from the criminal. It opens on August 30th.

And finally, here’s the teaser for Paul W.S. Anderson’s Pompeii starring Kit Harington (Game Of Thrones) and Emily Browning (Sucker Punch) as two star crossed lovers trying to stay alive as Mt. Vesuvius rains down ash around them. The film bows on February 21, 2014.

Halloween Scene: Daybreakers (2009)

I think that last movie I saw Ethan Hawke in that I liked was 1997’s Gattaca (I still haven’t seen Training Day yet) which is interesting because I liked Daybreakers as well. They’re both futuristic science fiction flicks, Daybreakers just happens to have vampires. See, the idea is that vampires presented themselves to humanity demanding control of society, humanity said no and became hunted. Now, sometime later, all the humans are almost dead and the government and corporations are trying to come up with a supplement, but Hawke actually discovers a cure after meeting up with humans Willem Dafoe and Claudia Carvan. As you might expect, after figuring out how to replicate the cure, Hawke tries to spread it around (he never wanted to be a vampire in the first place).

On the whole I found the movie to be incredibly enjoyable and the high caliber of actors really added to the total product. The Daybreakers world is kind of like that of Planet of the Apes where the apes didn’t necessarily invent anything, but took over from humanity. In the case of Daybreakers, they improved things to fit their specific needs which makes for some really cool “huh, I didn’t think of that moments” like when the lights go dim and all the vamp’s eyes glow red and the cars which have been outfitted with cameras and plating so as not to let any sunlight in.

It’s touches like that that take this movie out of the usual “we’ve got to stop this big corporation from ruining the world” plot. Of course, the inclusion of vampires, obviously makes the whole thing more interesting. That mixture of genres really piqued my interest. The special effects are also pretty good, through they rely on CGI blood a little more than my liking (like when a car full of vampire’s hits an object and their blood explodes out the back–it makes sense in the movie, I promise). Overall, the look of the film is very solid and serves the movie very well.

There’s two other things I want to talk about. First off, I think LionsGate really screwed up in their ad campaign which made the movie look like The Matrix with vampires. What else would you think looking at the poster to the right? For what it’s worth, this image has very little to do with the movie. I don’t think this is too SPOILERY, but that’s where vampires house their personal blood supply. See, the company is a literal blood bank. You bring a human in, he or she gets hooked up to this machine for safe keeping. As the film goes on, vamps start taking their humans out as the blood shortage gets worse. So, the basic point is that, no, it’s not like The Matrix.

The second point, and this is definitely SPOILER territory, so skip ahead if you don’t want the ending ruined. The cure that Hawke discovers through Dafoe is that exposure to sun can actually undo the effects of vampirism as long as it’s cut off soon enough. Hawke recreates the process on himself and becomes human again. While trying to figure out how to make this a widespread process, he and Dafoe also discover that if a vampire drinks the blood of someone who’s gone from vampire to human, that vampire will turn human. I’m a little torn on this idea because it can be considered an easy out. Who would subject themselves to ridiculously painful burns to become human? How do you make that process actually work in a safe way? There are a lot of problems. On the other hand, I think the whole thing is pretty interesting and I bought it while watching. It was only upon further thought that I questioned things.

I can easily recommend Daybreakers to horror fans. In fact, I can’t think of the last vampire movie I dug. It’s not a grand slam, but it’s a good way to spend an hour and a half for sure.