The Thing I Like About …

Sinister: the part where he says, “We need to leave. Now.”

Most films – horror, drama, science fiction – have a character (or two) who is stubbornly addicted to his way of doing things, usually to his own peril and to that of those around him. He is also often a “her”, but in Sinister it is, in fact, a “he” … and he is an “author”. Being an author myself, I could understand how seductive it would be, to find artifacts and evidence of a real-crime topic so incredible that, if he could write it well, he would be rich and famous forever. It may not have been wise for him to hide evidence from the police, but I could understand the temptation, and the giving in. It wasn’t like it was the sort of evidence that would prevent the crimes from happening; they had happened long ago. He just needed to write it down. He just needed to collect the data, and fib to his wife, and placate his children, just a little bit longer, just a little bit longer.

Plus all that supernatural stuff he thinks he’s seeing is just hokum anyway, right?

Almost more than in any other story I’ve seen, Sinister’s Ellison (the stubborn “he” described above) is the most sympathetic destructively-stubborn character. His motives are so clear, and so close to what anyone might be tempted to do. His relationship with his wife is so open and straightforward that it’s the envy and goal of every couple in the audience; we see through their conversations that the impact of his stubbornness isn’t nearly as destructive as other characters’ actions in other stories.

Of all the times I’ve watched the stubborn character lead others into near-certain or certain doom, Sinister made me think least that anyone would see the truth in time to save the day. And then, just when the supernatural bad-guy makes his move against Ellison – and I realize that Ellison needs to come to his senses now or the whole situation’s gonna go really bad (and I sit back thinking, “Well, here comes the really-bad, where evil wins because Ellison’s stupid … yep, seen it a dozen times”) – that’s the moment that Ellison’s eyes glaze over, and he walks resolutely out of the room, the way all the stubborn characters do when they’ve gone too far to come back from doom.

And he sets all the evidence on fire and tells his wife they need to leave now.

Ellison may be the only character I’ve ever seen do that … and it gives me hope, not just for future stubborn characters everywhere, but for all the stubborn people in the audience too. People do so many stupid things – long after we’ve realized they’re stupid – simply because we don’t want to admit we were stupid in the first place. But if Ellison can do an about-face against all literary odds, then real people in the actual world can take a deep breath and say proudly, “I was stupid … and will be stupid no more forever!”

And much good will come of this.

Thank you, Ellison. I’m not surprised by much, but I was surprised by you, and I will carry your example in my pocket.

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