Christopher Dye’s Something Sinister opens with Amelia, the main character, wandering around outside, looking for her seemingly lost dog. Then she goes inside where her aunt disgustedly claims that Rupert is dead. In some ways, that scene summarizes the entire movie.
Is Rupert dead or alive? Or is Amelia just imagining everything she sees and hears?
It’s apparent early on in the movie that Amelia half lives in a make believe world – particularly through weird behaviors such as dancing with her toy doll – but after seeing what life is like with her surly, abusive Aunt Helen, played by Maria Olsen, one can hardly blame her. The film has barely begun though when she suddenly kills her aunt.
After she does kill her and hides the body, none of the normal concerns one might have about a murder seem to bother her much. Instead, Amelia decides she can do whatever she wants to, which isn’t much. She looks through her aunt’s belongings, wears what she wants, preens in front of the mirror, and listens to a baby crying. Occasionally she goes outside to check on the area where she buried her aunt’s body.
Often lurking about outside though, actually sort of like a stalker, is Eric. He’s either a good friend or former boyfriend and he tries to be friendly, but she usually rebuffs him. At one point, he warns her about an escaped lunatic on the loose, further adding to the mystery of whether Amelia’s delusions are real. As the movie progresses, a bassinet appears but no baby is seen, only the endless crying. There are also appearances of a priest, leaving one to wonder if he is perhaps the escaped lunatic, or maybe something else.
Something Sinister isn’t a bad film per se, but there just isn’t enough going on in it that’s particularly interesting to watch. I did like the film’s heavy use of sound in creating a spooky atmosphere and its overall production was a much better example of good filmmaking for a low-budget film than ploys such as found footage. I also really appreciated the film’s focus on the mind itself as a scary thing. A lot of horror movies show everyone running from the crazy person, but this film at least tries to show craziness from the perspective of the person living it.
Casting wise, Maria Olsen is certainly an imposing figure as Aunt Helen, before she gets killed off, and I particularly enjoyed the scenes with Eric, played by Jeremy Gladen, I think mostly because his scenes gave the movie some much needed energy. Rachel Appelbaum’s performance as Amelia, on the other hand, felt kind of wooden. To be fair though, she is largely carrying the film by herself, and a lot of it is centered around what is going on inside her head.
All in all, Something Sinister is a movie that is open to interpretation and if you like slower-paced films that keep you guessing, you may really enjoy the movie – just don’t expect any concrete answers at the end. There are obviously dark things in Amelia’s past, most notably the death of a baby, and clearly they haunt her. But much as the film’s title suggest, it is up to the viewer to imagine what those sinister things might be.
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