Theatrical release poster
Film information

Directed by

Scott Derrickson

Produced by

Jason Blum

Written by

C. Robert Cargill
Scott Derrickson

Release Date(s)

October 12, 2012




$3 million

Gross Revenue


Sinister is a 2012 supernatural horror film directed by Scott Derrickson and written by Derrickson and C. Robert Cargill. It follows true-crime writer Ellison (Ethan Hawke) as he discovers a box of home movies that puts his family in danger. The film employs "found footage" along with traditional cinematography.Sinister premiered at the SXSW festival, and was released in the United States on October 12, 2012.


The film opens with Super 8 footage depicting a family of four standing beneath a tree with hoods over their heads and nooses around their necks. An unseen figure saws through a limb acting as a counterweight, causing them all to be strangled.

Months later, washed-up true-crime novelist Ellison Oswalt (Ethan Hawke) moves into the murdered family's home with his wife, Tracy (Juliet Rylance), and their two children Ashley (Clare Foley) and Trevor (Michael Hall D'Addario). Ellison intends to use the murders as the basis for his new book, and hopes that his research will turn up the fate of the family's fifth member, a little girl named Stephanie who disappeared following the murders.

Ellison finds a box in the attic, which contains a projector and several reels of Standard 8mm footage that are each labeled as if innocent home movies. Watching the films, Ellison discovers that they are snuff movies depicting families being murdered in various ways, including having their throats slit in bed (Sleepy Time '98), being burnt to death in a car (BBQ '79), being drowned in their pool (Pool Party '66), being run over by a lawn mower (Lawn Work '86) and the hanging that opened the movie (Family Hanging Out '11).

The drowning film proves especially disturbing for Ellison after he notices a demonic figure watching the drownings from the bottom of the pool before turning to look at the camera. Ellison eventually finds the figure observing the murders in each of the films, along with a strange painted symbol.

Consulting with a local deputy (James Ransone), Ellison discovers that the murders depicted in the films took place at different times, begining in the 1960's and in different cities across the country. He also learns that the families were all drugged prior to being killed; and that a child from each family went missing following every murder. The deputy refers Ellison to a local professor, Jonas (Vincent D'Onofrio), whose expertise is the occult and demonic phenomena, to decipher the symbol in the films. Jonas tells Ellison that the symbols are that of a pagan deity named Bughuul, who would kill entire families so that he could take their children into his realm and consume their souls.

One night, Ellison hears the film projector running and goes up to the attic. There, he finds the missing children watching one of the films. Bughuul suddenly appears on camera before physically appearing before Ellison. Ellison takes the camera and the films to the backyard and burns them. Then he wakes his family to tell them that they are moving back to their old house.

While moving his family back into their old home, Ellison discovers the projector and films in his attic, along with a new envelope of film labeled "extended endings." Ignoring repeated calls from the deputy, Ellison watches the footage. He finds that it depicts the missing children coming onscreen following each murder, revealing themselves to be the killers before suddenly disappearing.

After viewing the films, Ellison receives a message from Professor Jonas, who sends him scans of historical drawings associated with Bughuul; each had been partially destroyed because ancient cultures believed that Bughuul lived within the images, and that they acted as portals between his realm and the mortal world.

The next time the deputy calls, Ellison answers. The deputy informs him that he has discovered a link between each of the murders: Every family had previously lived in the house where the last murder took place, and each new murder occurred shortly after the family moved into their new residence; by moving, Ellison has placed himself and his family in line to be the next victims. Before he can react, Ellison becomes lightheaded; inspecting his coffee cup, he finds a note reading "Good Night Daddy" before losing consciousness.

Ellison awakens to find himself, his wife and his son bound and gagged. Ashley approaches holding the 8mm camera, and tells him him that she will make him famous again. Ashley then precedes to murder her family with an axe, using their blood to paint images of cats, dogs, and unicorns on the walls. Her work complete, Ashley views the Super-8 film of her murders, which concludes with an image of the missing children watching her. Bughuul appears, causing the children to flee. He lifts Ashley into his arms and disappears into the film with her.

The film concludes with an image of the box of films in the Oswalt family's attic, now accompanied by a reel labeled "House Painting '12."



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