Out Now. Momentum Pictures. Certificate: 15.
‘Hanging Around’. ‘Summer Barbecue’. ‘Pool Party’. Captions scrawled onto canisters of Super 8, home movies found in an attic. They are all named as if Beach Boys songs, extolling the virtues of outdoor leisure activities: when run through a projector, the frames seen are of happy households, sun-dappled and innocuous. That is until a sudden edit shifts the tone and makes those titles drip with mockery: a mass lynching, deadly arson, deliberate drowning: miniature genocides of family units. Each time the question: who is filming? Each case the same detail: a child missing, presumed dead. Ellison Oswalt (Ethan Hawke) is a writer who has moved with his wife and two kids into a house where one of these movies was shot. Desperate to recapture the success of his true crime bestseller published ten years ago, Ellison believes that he will be able to solve the mystery and ensure his legacy. But upon the discovery of that box of footage, the author realises the extent of these atrocities and a pattern of juvenile abduction, ritualistic voyeurism and occult symbols pointing to a Babylonian demon, Bughuul, eater of children. As he grows increasingly obsessed with the murders, and the bumps-in-the-night swell to almost disco-rhythm frequency, has Ellison implicated his own family into the ruthless MO of ‘Mr. Boogie’? Sinister is both accumulatively terrifying and a little overcooked. The creeping malevolence is most comprehensive in Ellison’s cautious explorations of patient darkness, Chris Norr’s photography embellished with a troubling depth of shadow. However, the more accessible scares of sudden ghostly appearances alongside the manifestation of Bughuul himself, looking like an Eric Draven tribute act, serve to deract from the tension created by locking us into Ellison’s increasingly anxious psyche.