Prepare for 'Sinister' by Revisiting Ethan Hawke's Freakiest Roles

Prepare for 'Sinister' by Revisiting Ethan Hawke's Freakiest Roles

Oct 12, 2012

"The Weekend Rent" offers quick-hit suggestions of what to watch at home to get psyched for new releases in theaters, on Fridays. Click on any of the links below to find out how you can watch the movie right now.


This year's scariest, most original horror movie, Sinister, hopes to scare audiences this weekend in theaters like it did on the festival circuit. The wicked little film is about a writer (Ethan Hawke) who hopes to get inspired for his next big true-crime novel by moving his family into a home where four of its former family members were mysteriously hung from a tree in the backyard. Things, of course, start to go bump in the night for Hawke, his wife and their two children. The more Hawke digs, the more he realizes that some, ahem, sinister supernatural force is tied to the house.

It's refreshing to not only have a male protagonist in a horror film, but one with the caliber of Hawke (Oscar nominated for his acting in Training Day and his writing in Before Sunset) instead of another generically pretty ingénue you might find on a CW show. Your knee-jerk reaction to hearing Hawke's name might be to associate him with literary movies like Dead Poets Society or the Gen X flick Reality Bites, but Hawke has dabbled in surrealism before Sinister. In the 1997 sci-fi film Gattaca, Hawke plays a man—ironically named Vincent Freeman—born by natural means in a society where DNA and genetic engineering determines social class. Vincent dreams of a career in space, but being an "in-valid" means he is considered unfit. He finds an ally—and a future real-life wife—in "valid" Uma Thurman.

Although there isn't anything fantastical about the gritty 2004 psychological drama Taking Lives, there is still a surreal scene in which Hawke's art salesman arrives at the motel room of FBI profiler Angelina Jolie and makes passionate love to her on a chest of drawers and the bed while surrounded by gruesome crime-scene photos.

He may have played Hamlet on-screen, but Hawke went in the opposite direction to play Sergeant Jake Roenick in the explosive 2005 remake of John Carpenter's Assault on Precinct 13. The movie follows Jake and the skeleton crew of Detroit's oldest police station on New Year's Eve, the night before it's supposed to close its doors forever. What none of them expect is an all-out professional assault on the station in an attempt to get at a prisoner (Laurence Fishburne) inside during a snowstorm that has crippled the city.

If you haven't seen the underappreciated 2009 sci-fi horror film Daybreakers, now would be a good time to check it out to see how Hawke has really warmed up to genre roles. The movie flips vampire mythology around and imagines a world that is predominantly vampires and running out of humans (i.e. food). Hawke plays a vampire hematologist named Edward Dalton who discovers a "cure" for vampirism by shocking it out of the system with a little UV flash-burn therapy (sort of like Florida's tanning mom). There is a memorable scene of shirtless vampire Hawke singeing himself over and over again in an old winery until he burns that bloodsucker right out of his bod. Immortality might have its perks, but with the human population dwindling and vampires degenerating into blood-starved psychotics called "subsiders," Hawke's technique is the only way to bring humanity back from the brink.

All of the movies listed above are available on DVD, Blu-ray and various VOD services. Sinister opens in theaters everywhere on October 12.

Categories: Features, At Home, In Theaters
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The Burning Question

Which one of these people is in the movie No Good Deed?

  • Karin Konoval
  • Henry Simmons
  • Craig Ferguson
  • Alan Arkin
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Henry Simmons