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SINISTER Starring Ethan Hawke, Juliet Rylance and James Ransone

Directed by Scott Derrickson Written by Scott Derrickson and C. Robert Cargill Summit Entertainment

“Bad things happen to good people,” says true-

crime scribe Ellison Osborne (Ethan Hawke), “and they still need to have their story told.” It’s one of sev- eral justifications Ellison gives for having uprooted his wife and two children and moved them into a house where an entire family – save one conspicuously missing child – was murdered in the backyard. It’s been ten years of strained budget- ing since Ellison had a hit book, and he figures he needs to get real cozy with some ugly trauma in order to crank out another. (Un)luckily for him, he hits the motherlode on his first night in their new digs: up in that otherwise empty attic lurks a scorpion, a rat- tler and a box containing an old projector and a cache of home movies on Super 8, with sugges- tive titles such as “Family Hanging Out” (emphasis on “Hanging”). Once projected, the home movies apparently rip open some sort of demonic portal, though the creepi-

est moments come not from the token child phan- toms that inevitably crop up and dash across the hall- ways, but rather from the implication that Ellison, such a seemingly nice dad in his leather elbow-patched cardigans, is ultimately willing to put his own family in harm’s way if it means there’s any shot at fame or fortune in the end. A little bit Shining with a dash of Insidious, Sinister

takes a fairly sturdy core narrative about a series of ostensibly unconnected murders that occurred over several decades in various parts of the US and fusses with them until they become something of a mish- mash. The story could have been told with a lot more ambiguity, and thus a lot more sus- pense. Though director Scott Der- rickson (The Exorcism of Emily Rose) performs some pleasingly unnerving visual tricks with the spacious rooms in the Osbornes’ new home, this is essentially a sin- gle-location movie, but one that’s big on atmosphere. If only they could have made the smarter-than- he-looks local deputy, wonderfully played by The Wire’s James Ran- sone, the central character. His un- wanted consultation on the anatomy of household pests makes for one of the best moments in the

movie. Ask any home owner: squirrels can be scary too.



HOUSE AT THE END OF THE STREET Starring Jennifer Lawrence, Elisabeth Shue

and Gil Bellows Directed by Mark Tonderai Written by David Loucka and Jonathan Mostow Relativity Media

Though it’s based on a

story by the usually reliable Jonathan Mostow (Break- down), House at the End of the Street is built on a rickety foundation. Condemned from the outset by a clunky story that recycles plot elements from The Amityville Horror, Psycho and The Collector (1965), the forgettable film’s uninspired direction, overuse of extreme close-ups and shaky camerawork sink it into the mud. Single mother Sarah (Elisabeth Shue) and her pouty

daughter Elissa (Jennifer Lawrence) move into an ex- urban house in the woods. The house next door – you know, the one at the end of the street – was the scene of a double murder four years earlier; it seems a sweet little girl went postal and killed her parents with a crowbar before vanishing into the woods, never to be found. Her brother, Ryan (Max Thieriot), who survived because he was staying with his sick

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