The last decade has not been kind to the horror genre. Horror has been stuck in some kind of limbo where filmmakers use the same old formulas over and over again and tell the same stories over and over again. The genre has never been one that innovates thanks to new technologies, it has always remained within the parameters of a low-budget production. And why change that? Minimal investment with maximum profit seems to be the name of the game. But the genre has arrived at a limit, and it seems that no matter what, filmmakers can not think of something new with their current available tools. The Secret of Sinchanee is no exception.
The Secret of Sinchanee is written and directed by Steven Grayhm, who also stars in the film as the main protagonist. Alongside Grayhm we also find Tamara Austin, Nate Boyer and Laila Lockheart Kraner. The film tells the story of a tow truck driver who returns home after the death of his father. Only to find that the old home seems to be haunted by a terrible presence, which also might be the origin of several of his traumas as a child.
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From the first minutes of its running time, it is clear that Grayhm is trying to adhere to the trend of slow burn horror films. The movie places a lot of importance on the atmosphere. This kind of approach is very successful at some points in the movie. It is especially well done when it comes to putting snowy Massachusetts in front. It makes every part of the town seem hostile, rough, and just not a place where you want to have this kind of paranormal experience.
While it is clear that Grayhm and his team of filmmakers must put forth their best efforts when it comes to creating atmosphere, they completely fail where it counts the most. At least when talking about a horror film, and that is in the scares. The Secret of Sinchanee isn’t scary at all. And not for a lack of trying; the filmmaker employs every trick in the book, including loud noises, jump scares, long dark hallway shots, and so much more, but the spirits or ghosts we’re confronted with don’t appear to be scary; they appear to be too normal to be threatening.
In comparison to a film like Hereditary. Which also chooses to create a lot of atmosphere before any creepy images appear on the screen. It seems like Grayhm lacks a sense of timing and also a sense of what can be scary in terms of visuals. There’s nothing here that can make you feel uncomfortable or make you say “Nope” and get out of the room. Some jump scares are almost laughable. That’s not the results you want from the scares in your horror movie.
But the horror elements are not the only thing lacking here. When the movie starts, Grayhm decides to tell some lore and backstory with the use of title cards. The mythology presented in these seconds is fascinating, and the stories that can come out of it have amazing potential. Sadly, nothing that comes after this title card measures up to the teasing that those few words do to your imagination as a viewer.
The story deals with some very important topics, but the story doesn’t know how to explore these areas naturally, and when it tries to do so it feels forced. The film also lacks focus as it goes. Because what starts as a horror film dealing with trauma and family matters then becomes a detective story, but these two aspects of the film never match completely. They feel like totally different movies, and maybe they should have, because the detective plotline has a lot more potential and better characters.
Grayhm is not a very compelling actor in this film. It is understandable that his character is not at the best point in his life. He is going through a very rough patch, and when you add ghosts and paranormal shenanigans to that, it becomes worse. But those are not an excuse for the construction of a character that is just boring to watch and follow at every step of the way.
Things look a lot brighter when Tamara Austin comes on the scene. Her presence is a lot more compelling and the actress does a good job with the material. Sadly, she has to share time with other plot lines and elements that hurt what could have been her movie. Let’s hope we can watch her as the main protagonist and some other production in the future.
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The Secret of Sinchanee has the best of intentions, but does not really know how to execute its ideas in the best possible way. Dark hallways and jump scares can only do so much at this point in the game. Horror movies have been a staple of the medium almost from its inception, but they need to evolve drastically in this new age, or they will never be taken seriously in any sort of way. Horror should be compelling, exciting, thought-provoking and scary. Not boring and stale.