While moving in, Ellison discovers a mysterious collection of Super 8 film reels and a projector in a dusty box in the attic. Crime scene photos show that the box — marked “Home Movies” and containing reels dating from the 1960s to the '90s — wasn't there when the police came through.
When he watches the most recent movie, the writer is shocked that the reel features footage of the backyard murders. It doesn't reveal the killer, though, and Ellison soon — but not soon enough — realizes that each reel documents the horrific death of another family.
The down-on-his-luck writer is still so driven to score his next literary hit that he doesn't share his findings with the police. He eventually notices a bizarre masked figure and a strange symbol appear in each movie, and with the help of an eagerdeputy (James Ransone) and a long-distance professor (Vincent D'Onofrio), Ellison theorizes that a malevolent supernatural entity is behind the crimes.
But there's only so many times discerning film fans can watch a horror movie character make the same boneheaded mistakes before they stop caring whether the protagonist survives. And Derrickson definitely crosses that line.
Hawke manages, just barely, to sell that his character is so ambitious he'll ignore that a killer has managed to get inside his family's new home at least once to deliver a box of old movies. But no actor is good enough to realistically portray a writer who was smart enough to solve a cold case but also happens to be too idiotic to turn on the light switch before investigating bumps in the night.
It's a shame that a story as chilling as “Sinister” should induce eye-rolls instead of sheer scares.
— Brandy McDonnell