• Aashish P

Sinister (2012) movie Explained: Was this Bughuul's Master Plan? All your Questions Answered

Updated: Nov 26, 2021

Many-a-times horror movies rely on cheap jump scares and follow the same old story of a family moving into a new house where they witness a supernatural power and finally at the end, they either kill that supernatural thing or set its soul free. Sinister on the surface looks the same, but it is way different and a scarier movie.


If you're in a hurry, then click the texts below to go to their respective sections:

  1. The Five Tapes/Super 8 Footage Explained

  2. What can be inferred from these 5 tapes?

  3. Who made these tapes?

  4. Why were these five tapes made?

  5. Why and how did Bughuul choose Ellison and his family?

  6. Why does Bughuul wait till the family moves into a new house to kill them?

  7. What does the ending of Sinister mean and how does it affect the whole movie?

According to a study done by Broadband Choices in 2020, Sinister was declared to be the scariest movie of all time, mainly based upon the average heartbeats per minute. Nearly 50 people were studied during the experiment and their heartbeat rose from 86 beats per minute to 131 beats per minute, all thanks to one particular jump scare, the lawnmower scene from the tape Lawn Work ’86. Scott Derrickson here plays with the audience’s mind, first he made the other tapes (before this one) formulaic where the family is first shown doing some activity but then the scene cuts to them getting annihilated and murdered. But in Lawn Work ’86 the family can be seen watching TV and then some unseen figure opens up the garage door to retrieve the lawnmower. In first few seconds of the scene, the lawnmower just silently rolls in the backyard and then when nobody is expecting * BAM! * there’s a jump scare. Good work Scott, you got me.

Sinister Ethan Hawke's Ellison Oswalt is enjoying some quality dinner time with his family (his wife, Juliet Rylance as Tracy Oswalt; Clare Foley as Ashley Oswalt; Michael Hall D'Addario as Trevor Oswalt)
Ellison and his family enjoying Dinner

Sinister as an overall movie was indeed scary, the images of the children and the pagan deity Bughuul are still in my head and still creep me out. The plot of the movie may convey a feeling that not much is happening around it. It may seem that the movie just concerns with Ethan Hawke's character Ellison Oswalt trying to decipher clues from those 5 tapes. But there are subtle points and hints laid throughout the entire movie which lead to the bigger picture. These are easy to have been overlooked and, in this article, I will try to explain why and how certain things happen in the movie and what exactly does the ending mean? So, all your questions about Sinister (2012) will be answered right here.


But first of all, let's talk about those tapes as they take most of the screen time and are the central object of the plot.


The 5 tapes (super 8 footage) in Sinister


In Sinister, a true-crime writer Ellison Oswalt moves to a new house in search of a new story for his book. He thinks if he solves the mystery of disappearance of a girl named Stephanie, then nobody can stop his book from being the best seller.


So, while moving, Ellison discovers a box full of Super 8 tapes (footage) in the attic. There were a total of 5 footages which were labelled with a year and some words. I’m going to describe these reels in chronological order of their years, so to get a better clarity about the events.


1. Pool Party ’66 - This is the oldest tape out of all and we can assume it being the first tape. Bughuul may have targeted many families before this year, but with the limited information we have, we will assume this was his first target.


So, this tape describes the killing of an unnamed family. Each family member was killed by the son Tristian who was possessed by Bughuul. They were tied to pool lounge chairs set at the edge of the pool and then were pulled into the pool, causing them to drown. Bughuul can be seen at the bottom of the pool watching the drownings.


Location - This incident took place in Portland, Oregon, in 1996.


2. BBQ ’79 - This reel consists the footage of the Martinez family. The Martinez family is tied, gagged and locked inside their car, with the car being completely chained up. Martinez’ 9-year-old son Darrell lights the car on fire, burning the family inside. Here also, Bughuul can be seen by the side of the car.


Location - Martinez family was killed in Sacramento, California in 1979, but before moving on to this place, they lived in Portland, Oregon where the previous unnamed family lived.


3. Lawn Work ’86 - The tape with the infamous jump scare, Lawn Work ’86 is about the killing of De Luzio family. They were tied up and laid on backyard where their youngest daughter Lana ran a lawnmower through them, dismembering the rest three members. In extended cut, she is seen dragging five garbage bags full of her family’s remains.


Location - De Luzio family was killed in Orange County, California in 1986, but before moving on to this place, they lived in Sacramento, California where the Martinez family previously lived.


4. Sleepy Time ’98 - This tape is about the killing of Miller family. They were again tied into their bed and gagged with tape. These Bughuul possessed kids always tie and gag their victim so that they don’t resist getting murdered. Here, as evident their 13-year-old son Christopher was behind their murder, he slit their throat with a knife. No, pulling them into pool or running a lawnmower through them, he chose an easy route and just cut their throat up. Don’t do hard work kids, do smart work.


Location - Miller family was killed in St. Louis, Missouri, 1998 but before this, they lived in Orange County, California, where the De Luzio family used to live.


5. Family Hanging Out ’11 - The events in this tape were the reason as to why Ellison moved into a new house. Played in the opening scene of Sinister, Family Hanging Out ’11 was about the killing or hanging of the Stevenson family. They were placed at the bottom of the tree with a sack on their heads and nooses around their necks. Their daughter Stephanie, while hiding behind the tree, cut a branch which acted as a counterweight, resulting in the family’s hanging. Here, Bughuul can be seen in the bushes which Ellison noticed when he zoomed into the photo.


Location - The Stevenson family was killed in Chatford, Pennsylvania, in 2011, where Ellison and his family moved in. But before here, the Stevensons used to live in St. Louis Missouri which was the place where De Luzio family used to live.


What can be inferred from these five tapes?


All the 5 tapes follow a same type of story. The family members are first shown spending quality time with each other and then the footage cuts to show the exact same family getting murdered in different ways. In all these killings, one child of the family is always missing, who is then revealed to be the killer.

Ellison Oswalt (Ethan Hawke) in Sinister, looking at the board with murder clues and trying to decipher the killer, Bughuul
Ellison Oswalt with his murder board trying to figure out information about Bughuul

In some way or other, Bughuul can be seen in these murder locations. After Ellison discovers the rattle snake and drawing of the murders in the attic, he zooms in on all his pictures and finds Bughuul in most of the tapes.


At the start of the movie, Ellison moves into a new house located in the fictional town of Chatford, Pennsylvania. Then, he starts to witness supernatural entity in this house but the moment he saw those missing children watching the projector at the attic, he knew he messed up and decides to move into his older house. When Ellison DOES move to his older house, he finds the same box of footage in the attic, although he had already burned it. In this box, there’s a new reel labelled as Extended Cut which actually showed the missing children committing the murders.


We also know from the ending that each family that was murdered had previously lived in the house where one of the earlier murders took place.


Who made these tapes and who was the killer?


As shown in the extended cut of the tapes, the children possessed by Bughuul made this tape. Bughuul is a pagan deity from Babylonian times who lives longer and achieves sort of immortality by consuming children’s souls. The name Bughuul also means The Eater of Children, so it makes sense. Early Christians believed that Bughuul actually lived in the images themselves and that they were gateways into his realm. So, when children see an image of Bughuul, he possesses them and make them to do terrible things.

In Sinister, Bughuul is a pagan deity (demon) who achieves immortality by consuming children's soul. So, here is the photo of all five missing children (possessed by Bughuul) looking at Ellison Oswalt during Sinister movie ending.
All five missing children (possessed by Bughuul) looking at Ellison

So, Bughuul first possesses children and makes them kill their own family members and when the deed is finally done, he takes them to his Netherworld to consume their soul.


Why were these tapes made?


There are many mediums this film could have opted for, besides tape. One of the reasons the makers based the film on these tapes (reels) was the movie “The Ring”, which fortunately was the film I watched before watching Sinister. The inspiration for this movie came from a nightmare, writer Robert Cargill experienced after watching The Ring. In The Ring, whoever watches a particular tape is killed in exactly seven days, so the same type of thing also takes place in this movie.

Ethan Hawke's Ellison Oswalt while moving into a new house in Chatford, Pennsylvania find a box of projector and tapes (super 8 footage) in his attic. These five tapes contain all the previous murders done by Bughuul.
Ellison finds projector and super 8 footage in the attic

The reason for the existence of these reels was not made clear in the movie but I have my own theory. So, hear me out, just like in ‘The Ring’, these tapes were made so that our antagonist (in this case Bughuul) can choose his next victims and capture one of the children. So, let’s say Bughuul possessed the children and killed his first family. The killings were recorded so that when another family or another person sees this tape, they automatically become the next target of Bughuul. It’s just Bughuul’s way of finding and hunting his prey.


The houses can be yet another way through which Bughuul decides his next target. He kills a family in a house and when the next family acts brave and moves into this new house (just like Ellison’s), Bughuul’s heart and guts become happy as he gets another target to devour on.


Why and how did Bughuul choose Ellison and his family?


So, as I speculated in the previous section, Bughuul chooses his next victim through his tapes/reels. He perfectly places the box of these reels and projector, at the right time so that any family member can find it easily. Human mind is a curious mind and when that member finally watches those reels, Bughuul goes like “Thanks for watching. Now, let me consume your child’s soul”.


Jokes apart, here Bughuul places those reels in the attic and when Ellison finds them, he thinks them as clues behind the murders which they indeed were but they also were the gateway to Bughuul’s appetite and his world.


I hope you remember the first jump scare of the movie. Ellison hears creaking coming from his house and when he walks down the hall, he spots a box which frightens him, but when the box opens, his son, Trevor, who suffers from night terrors, comes out of it. We also come to know later in the movie that Trevor already had these night terrors, but they worsened more after moving into this new house. So, I think Bughuul tried to possess and manipulate both the children, and Trevor somehow resisted the possession. On the first day of his school, Trevor also drew the hanging of Stevenson family. This might have been forced by Bughuul in a way to capture Trevor as he possesses children through images.

Ellison's son Trevor (Michael Hall D'Addario) has night terror in the movie Sinister. He comes out of the box in the middle of the night which frightens Ellison and Tracy. This was the first jump scare of the movie Sinister.
Trevor coming out of the box (Night Terrors)

Now, there are many ways Bughuul might have used to possess Ashley (the daughter). We know he possesses people through his paintings and images, so when Ellison goes to check in his daughter, she seems asleep but then camera reveals that Stevenson’s missing daughter, Stephanie is also present in the room and there’s also a drawing of the Stevenson family’s hanginf. So, what I think is Stephanie somehow manages to make Ashley draw or see any image of Bughuul through which he finally possessed her and made her do these things. The number one rule of the house for Ashely was that she can only paint in her room and not anywhere else. But later in the movie, she draws a picture of Stephanie in a tyre swing outside her room which she claims that Stephanie herself told her to draw that picture. So, Bughuul was already trying his best to possess Ashley through the drawings, and he finally succeeded in his mission. The determination this man has to achieve immortality is commendable.


At 51:00 mark of the movie, Stephanie also asks her mother to teach her to make coffee for Ellison and she uses this same way later in the movie to make a coffee and poison Ellison.


Why does Bughuul wait till the family moves into a new house to kill them?


During the end of the movie, when Ellison moved back into his older house, he kept declining Deputy So-and-So’s call. When he finally picked up the call, it was too late but we did know that all the families which were killed in those tapes previously lived in the house where one of the earlier family was killed, as I discussed in the first section (tapes one). So, a question arises that why does Bughuul wait till the family moves into a different location to kill them? Why doesn’t he kill them all in just one location? I’ve my own theory regarding this and it’s close to reality.


Bughuul is always in search of a newer family and a newer child to devour its soul and till now, we know he chooses a certain family only when they see the tape or move into that house.

In the beginning of the movie Sinister, Ellison Oswalt moves into a new house located in Chatford, Pennsylvania to write his new book on Stevenson Family Murder.
Ellsion Oswalt and Tracy Oswalt moving into the new house located in Chatford

Let’s say if Bughuul didn’t wait till the family moved and instead killed 2 families in the same house, then it would have been difficult for him to find his next target. Hear me out, if in a city two families are killed in the exact same house, then that house will become sort of murder place and people will start to label it as a haunted house. No other family would dare to live in that place, which would make Bughuul’s work a bit harder.


So, Bughuul makes the family move to another location so that they would go away from this previous murder place to a new place where he could kill them. So, when a new family moves into this new house thinking “Oh! It’s just one murder, nothing is wrong with this house”, BAM! Bughuul will again torture them and make them move to another location, will kill them and this cycle will continue till Bughuul gets bored.


What does the ending of Sinister mean and how does it affect the whole movie?


I know many people dislike the ending, but I kind of like it. I do believe that the ending could have been better, could have given much more clearance to stuffs and not deviate to these cult things, but still it was unexpected and works in the favour of the movie.


If you look at it clearly, this movie was Bughuul’s master plan. It wasn’t about a man solving some family’s murder mystery but was rather about the way another victim of Bughuul is determined, and is destined for a cruel faith.


This whole time, Ellison thought he was solving a murder mystery but he was just a piece of pawn for Bughuul. He made sure to traumatize Ellison so that he leaves that murder place, goes to a new place where his destiny of getting murdered by his own child was waiting right at the gate.


The hints to the ending were given all over the place and it sticks to that. Ellison and his family were the central focus of the movie and we were made to believe that Sinister was just like any other horror movie, where one particular family will have the ability to finally lift some curse or defeat some powerful ghost but this movie was different and that what makes it so great. It played with our expectations and delivered something totally unexpected. This was the same case with movies like The Ring and Hereditary.

Ellison Oswalt (Ethan Hawke) and Deputy So & So (James Ransone) discussing about Bughuul and Ellison's drinking problem in the horror movie Sinister with the scary lawnmower scene.
Ellison Oswalt (Ethan Hawke) and Deputy So & So (James Ransone)

The movie was also about Ellison’s personal struggle. He hasn’t had a best seller in last 10 years after his book Kentucky Blood released, which made him so desperate that despite knowing that a murder took place in the exact same house, he still encouraged his family to move in. He also started witnessing weird incidents in this house but still he was so obsessed with his book that he never thought to discuss these incidents with his wife.


At some point in the movie and as Deputy So-and-So also pointed, Ellison started drinking heavily as things started to get weirder. It seemed like every frustration and horror he had; he was flushing them with a bottle of whiskey.


So, even after the events of this movie, nobody could stop Bughuul and he is still free and greedy for immortality. Ellison’s family is definitely not last and Bughuul is going to kill many more family. So, if you shift to a new house and find a box of tapes, just run for your life and away from that house. Everything is less important than your precious life.


This was the end of this article, and I abide a goodbye to you. I hope you enjoyed reading this article and got to know about Sinister more. As for me, I got to go and remove all the drawings and paintings from my house and I have a photo of Bughuul on my phone, I have to delete that too. Ba-bye.

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