C. Robert Cargill was on home turf at the Alamo Draft House for Fantastic Fest last month. He was there with Scott Derrickson for the screening of their movie Sinister, opening in theaters today. Best known as blogger Massawyrm of the pop culture web site, Ain’t It Cool News and a film critic for more than ten years, Cargill has seen his share of horror films, from acclaimed classics to little‐known sleepers. One of his core beliefs about the genre is that it is essential to establish the menace from the beginning.
“This is something nobody’s ever done before,” he says. “It will scare the crap out of people. It comes from nowhere and you will have no idea what’s coming next, but you will know that this is not going to end well. At the very first test screening, that shot came up and people in the audience gasped. And I thought, good, it worked.”
Sinister opens with grainy Super 8 footage of a family bound beneath a tree in a suburban backyard, hoods hiding their faces and nooses around their necks. As an unseen figure saws away a branch, the bound family members are hoisted into the air in slow motion, kicking and struggling for air until they finally all dangle silently. That opening image, which was the inspiration for the script that became Sinister, first came to co‐writer C. Robert Cargill in a nightmare.
Cargill dreamed he found a box of Super 8 films in his attic. Watching the films, he was horrified to witness the murder that became Sinister’s opening image. He was unable to shake his revulsion and fear even after awakening.
“The image just wouldn’t let go,” he says. “I remember vividly hearing the sound of the Super 8 projector and then seeing the tree with four people lined up beneath it. I couldn’t get it out of my head. Eventually, I realized it would be the basis for a really good movie. I kicked the idea around for a couple of years until it all finally came together.”
After Cargill worked out the details of his story, he contacted his friend Scott Derrickson, director and writer of the horror hit The Exorcism of Emily Rose. “Scott was a fan of my writing on Ain’t It Cool News,” he explains. “We became friends after he wrote to me to thank me for turning him on to films that he might have missed. We both happened to be in Las Vegas and, after a couple of drinks, I pitched the idea to him.”
Derrickson, a longtime aficionado of the genre, says Cargill may be the only person he knows who has seen more horror films than he has. “I have a lot of respect for his opinion of movies,” the director says.
Ethan Hawke plays a true crime novelist who discovers a box of mysterious, disturbing home movies that plunge his family into a nightmarish experience of supernatural horror.
A writer researching the disappearance of a young girl after the grisly murder of her family discovers a cache of terrifying home movies and unwittingly opens a door into a nightmarish mystery, the latest horror thriller from the producer of the Paranormal Activity films and the writer/director of The Exorcism of Emily Rose. A sensation at SXSW’s Super Secret Midnight Screening, Sinister stars Ethan Hawke (Training Day, Daybreakers) in an intense, harrowing and shockingly original tale. Ten years ago, true crime writer Ellison Oswald (Hawke) made his reputation with a best‐selling account of a notorious murder. Now, desperate to replicate the critical and financial success of his first book, he moves his loyal wife (Juliet Rylance), over‐anxious son (Mark Hall D’Addario) and artistic daughter (Clare Foley) into a home where a suburban family was brutally executed and a child disappeared, hoping to find inspiration in the crime scene.
Instead he discovers a mysterious box containing Super 8 footage of the murders—plus several more equally gruesome homicides. As he watches the carnage unfold on film, Ellison realizes he has stumbled onto evidence of a decades‐long killing spree. But rather than going to the local authorities, he keeps the movies to himself, hoping to publish another acclaimed book based on the crimes. As Ellison starts to piece together the mind‐bending truth about the crimes and the murderer, unseen intruders and inexplicable goings‐on disrupt his once peaceful household. Slowly, he begins to realize that his ambition has placed him and his family in the path of an ancient and bloodthirsty adversary who has marked them as his next victims.
STARRING: Ethan Hawke (Training Day, Daybreakers), Juliet Rylance (Animal), Fred Dalton Thomas (In the Line of Fire, “Law and Order”), James Ransone (“The Wire,” The Next Three Days), Vincent D’Onofrio (“Law and Order: Criminal Intent,” Full Metal Jacket), Michael Hall D’Addario (People Like Us) and Clare Foley (Win Win).
The film is directed by Scott Derrickson (The Exorcism of Emily Rose, The Day the Earth Stood Still) from a script by Derrickson and C. Robert Cargill (Ain’t It Cool News). It is produced by Jason Blum (Paranormal Activity, Lawless) and Brian Kavanaugh‐Jones (Insidious, Safe). Director of photography is Chris Norr (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, What Doesn’t Kill You). Editor is Frédéric Thoraval (Taken, Safe). Original music is by Christopher Young (The Uninvited, Priest). Production designer is David Brisbin (New Moon, The Day the Earth Stood Still). Costume designer is Abby O’Sullivan (Hellbenders, Frozen River). Charles Layton (Vampire Killers) is executive producer.