By Jeffrey Anderson,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
Scary, intense horror film involves kids and murder.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Perhaps the biggest message here is "curiosity killed the cat," though the main character does eventually learn to put his family before his work.
Positive Role Models
The main character is a troubled writer who claims to be helping others but really seems more concerned with his own fame, fortune, and legacy. He does eventually learn to place his family's safety before these things, but it may be too late.
Violence & Scariness
Genuinely scary/shocking moments. The main character watches Super 8 films with grisly scenes of murder, such as a group hanging, a family burned alive inside a car, a family drowned in a swimming pool, and people cut up by a power lawnmower. There are suggestions of slaughter and images of walls decorated with blood.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
A married couple shares a couple of kisses and are shown sleeping in the same bed.
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Language is infrequent but includes a few uses of "s--t." In one scene, a character says the word "f--king" but drops a couple of letters so that it's not quite clear. Characters also say "damn it," "goddamn," "Christ" (as an exclamation), and "oh my God."
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Products & Purchases
The main character regularly uses an Apple computer and iPhone. The computer's screen and its various functions, commands, and applications -- such as Google, iChat, Safari, and QuickTime -- are shown often.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
The main character is shown gulping down whisky during tense moments, though he's never shown drunk, and it's not established that he has a drinking problem. He's also seen drinking a beer at dinner, and he lights up a cigarette during one especially tense scene.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Sinister -- a horror movie from the director of The Exorcism of Emily Rose -- is about a potentially supernatural killer and the disappearance of several children. It has some genuinely scary, tense, and shocking moments, including images of gruesome murders shown on Super 8 film footage. There's also a scene of blood spattered all over several walls. Language is a minor issue ("s--t" is used a couple of times), but the main character gulps whisky during tense moments and also smokes a cigarette.
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Where to Watch
Videos and Photos
Based on 18 parent reviews
Ok for mature 13 year olds
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Extremely disturbed and twisted horror film has grisly scenes of murder and overall violence
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What's the Story?
True crime writer Ellison Oswalt (Ethan Hawke) arrives in a small town with his wife (Juliet Rylance) and two kids -- Trevor (Michael Hall D'Addario) and Ashley (Clare Foley) -- in tow, preparing to work on his latest book. He's writing about a family of four that was murdered, hung simultaneously from a tree, after which the youngest daughter disappeared. Unfortunately, Ellison has chosen to move into the murder house itself, where he finds a box of Super 8 films that depict the actual murder, as well as several others. As he pieces the puzzle together, strange and terrifying things begin to happen. Ellison's life becomes a race to finish the book before he and his family become too deeply involved in a deadly situation.
Is It Any Good?
Writer/director Scott Derrickson has a touch for using old horror movie tools to create new scares, and he also incorporates several interesting themes into SINISTER. Even if some of his attempts don't quite work some of the time, he still gets credit for trying. To start, he's created an interesting character in Ellison, who's struggling between recapturing his former glory and keeping his family safe, pulled helplessly in two directions at once. And Hawke -- wearing a funny, puffy "grandpa" sweater and shoes -- emphasizes a fascinating clash between courage and weakness in his performance.
Derrickson does pack too many concepts into his story, mixing the supernatural with the mysterious, and it doesn't quite come together; the themes become jumbled up by the final payoff. But the movie has some terrifying, startling moments, mainly thanks to a crafty, strangely prickly music score by Christopher Young. Sinister won't hold up to scrutiny, but it's worth a look for horror fans.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about Sinister's violence, which occurs mostly in the Super 8 films the main character watches. How did it affect you? How did it compare to other horror movies you've seen?
Is Sinister scary? What were the scariest parts? Were they sudden jumps, or did it feel slower and creepier?
What's the appeal of horror movies like Sinister?
How does the movie depict drinking? Are there realistic consequences?
- In theaters: October 12, 2012
- On DVD or streaming: February 19, 2013
- Cast: Ethan Hawke, Fred Dalton Thompson, Juliet Rylance
- Director: Scott Derrickson
- Studio: Summit Entertainment
- Genre: Horror
- Run time: 110 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: disturbing violent images and some terror
- Last updated: February 25, 2023
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