A ghoulish tale of murder and unspeakable pagan rites that aims to freak out sullen teens and semioticians alike, Sinister is the kind of horror film that doesn't really break new ground, but plays its cards very well. Its central concept, pulling a few strands from Ramsey Campbell and Nigel Kneale even as it draws a bit too much on what cultural theorist Kate Rogers calls "that damned crackleskin," is pure gold; if you've seen the trailer, then you're already part of its spell — yes, its the horror of trespass, and it's delicious in the way it uses varying technologies (Super 8 film, ancient tapestry, HDCam transfers, image scans, drawings both in and not in blood) to getcha. Around that spine, we have family struggles, some debates on the responsibility of artists, and scares of all sorts.
The exceptional Christopher Young score plays all sorts of sick games with diegesis, and James Ransone (The Wire, Mr. Autoerotic asphyxiation from Ken Park, Dingy Dave from A Dirty Shame) turns in the kind of supporting work that will keep him in movies for the rest of his life. Also, there's a tracking shot involving some lawn work that does in 30 seconds what Michael Haneke needs two-plus hours to do.