‘Sinister’ is a woefully underrated horror film that lures you with its growing sense of dread and imminent doom. Although at times, it is weighed down by its unnecessary jump scares, it sets itself apart from other found-footage horror flicks through its unique concept and strong performances. The film’s intentionally abstruse ending leaves you with more questions than answers. So here’s a detailed explanation of the film for you.
In its opening scene, ‘Sinister’ features retro footage of an entire family hanging on a tree with nooses around their necks and bags wrapped around their faces. With the intention of writing another novel, bestselling true-crime writer, Ellison Oswald (Ethan Hawke), moves to the same family’s home with his wife and kids, and never reveals it to them what truly happened there. In the attic of the house, he discovers a box full of snuff films labeled as home videos.
Upon playing them in his office, he discovers that each of those films features different ritualistic murders that have links with the current family murder he’s investigating. The first film in the series of reels, titled “Pool Party,” reveals that a supernatural entity called Bughuul is involved with the murders. Seeing this as an opportunity to write a great novel, Ellison is blinded by his own desperation which later leads to gruesome consequences.
Who is Bughuul?
Throughout its runtime, the film just drops subtle hints about Bughuul and his intentions. After Ellison discovers several symbols and a mysterious man lurking in the backdrop of the tapes, he talks about it to a local Deputy. Ellison also discovers that all of these murders had one thing in common—one child was always missing in the video footage. Through the Deputy, he later gets in touch with a local professor, who specializes in the studies of occult practices and demonology.
After taking a look at the cues that Ellison has collected, the professor reveals that they allude to Bughuul, a pagan deity known for eating kids. He further explains this by saying that the deity would kill the families of these children and then take them to his own Netherworld to consume their souls. Following this, throughout the movie, as Ellison becomes more and more obsessed with the films, Bughuul can be seen gaining more strength and slowly traversing into the real world. All of this explains how Bughuul is somewhat like Samara from ‘The Ring.’ He moves from one place to another through pictures and then slowly possesses anyone who watches his films for too long.
The whole lore behind Bughuul is simply a work of fiction and is not inspired by any real satanic entities. However, as you can see in the promotional image above, Bughuul has been translated as the brother of Moloch by the creators of the film. Moloch is believed to be an actual satanic deity who thrives on the sacrifices of children, which is quite similar to Bughuul.
Timelines of the Super 8 Films, Explained
In the latter part of the film, Ellison gets extremely paranoid and starts realizing that there’s someone in his house all the time. Later, he finds the stairway to his attic laid open and when climbs up, he finds all the missing kids from the tapes sitting there, watching the snuff films on a projector. This is when Bughuul first appears on the projector and then suddenly transcends into the real world, appearing right in front of Ellison. Ellison, who was too blinded by his success all this while, realizes that moving into this home was a big mistake and burns all the footage. Without wasting any time, he moves to his old home with his family.
This is when the Deputy relentlessly calls him but he simply ignores his calls. When he finally answers the call, the Deputy informs him that he has connected all the dots and was able to derive a very evident structure between all the murders. All the families that were murdered previously lived in the homes of the other families who were killed right before them. This explains the vast difference between the timelines of each tape. “Pool Party” was filmed in 1966 and “BBQ,” which came right after it in the timeline, was marked as 1979. All the other tapes that followed had a difference of almost ten years between them. The reason behind this is that every time someone is mysteriously murdered in a house, no one really wants to move there unless they are very desperate like Ellison.
The Ending: Who Was Killing the Families?
In the final moments of the film, Ellison discovers some extra footage in the attic of his old home and when he plays these reels, he learns that all those murders were committed by the missing kids. After having a word with the Deputy about the timelines of the murders, he also realizes that moving out of that home was another blunder that he overlooked. As mentioned earlier, all the victims of Bughuul’s killings had previously lived in the house where one of the earlier murders took place. So by moving to a new home, Ellison not only followed the exact pattern of the murders but also further sped up the timeline.
Right after this, Ellison feels dizzy and realizes that his own daughter had poisoned his coffee. He falls to the ground and finds himself all tied up on his living room floor with the rest of his family. His daughter then starts filming, slashes them with an ax, and paints the entire house with their blood. With the title “House Painting,” this later becomes a part of Bughuul’s collection of video footage.
The ending of the movie shows how all this while, Bughuul and all of his other minions were manipulating both Ellison’s son and daughter. Even in the initial moments of the film, Ellison would often find his daughter lurking around the house late at night. Using the tapes, Bughuul possessed her, fed on her soul, and then convinced her to kill her own family. Since Ellison’s son was also having frequent night terrors and was acting strangely, it is possible that he, too, was being manipulated by Bughuul but he probably resisted the possession. Also, the part where Ellison’s daughter poisons his coffee comes in tandem with the scene at the beginning of the movie where the daughter asks her mother to teach her to make coffee for her father.
In the closing scene of the film, once she’s done filming the “family painting,” Bughuul carries Ellison’s daughter and disappears into the projector. This scene shows that he has now completely devoured her soul and is now carrying her into his Netherworld. Like all the other kids, she, too, will now become his slave and will help him manipulate the next family that will move to Ellison’s’ home.
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