The Sigil is a pseudo horror film, masquerading under the false impression that it is scary, when in-fact its about as frightening as an episode of the children’s TV series Rentaghost. The film by director Brandon Cano-Errecart (and no, I’ve never heard of him either) also stars him – as well as having him co-write, produce, edit, act as gaffer and do additional photography on it. The story follows Devan (Devan Liljedahl) who, along with her friend Nate (Nathan Dean Snyder) and his mate Brandon (Cano-Errecart) – who tags along to record the trip on film – travel from their home in Illinois to LA to investigate the mysterious death of Devan’s brother Logan. Upon reaching the house where Logan died in what the authorities are claiming was an accidental radiation leak, the three friends discover to their cost the shocking truth behind what really happened in the sinister and derelict building.
People ask me whether, as a critic, I read other people’s reviews? The answer would be no, at least not until I have had my say on what I have just watched. I have legitimate reasons for this, mainly because I don’t want to cloud my judgement with the opinions of someone else; my critique of the film however will frequently be in agreement with other writers, which reassures me that my opinions are not completely off the mark. I will often though take a look at the film database IMDB, if only to give me some impression as to whether the film I’m about to subject myself too has had a good or bad reception – as they take an average of votes from a range of critics and the viewing public, I believe that IMDB is a reasonably good indicator as to the film generally.
So, when I read that The Sigil got 7.4 on the esteemed database, I believed I was in for a fair evening of chilling entertainment. The result was indeed so, but more due to the fact it left me stone cold bored rather than frozen with horror. This film is one of the most ineffectual, uninvolving and frankly inept horror movies I have seen for quite a while – which is saying something considering some of the films I’ve watched: check the film’s IMDB rating now, several years after its release, and it gets a more appropriate 2.3.
Firstly let’s discuss the fact that the film is done with the old found footage / handheld camera documentary approach. There was a period, which lasted for maybe a couple of years after the release of The Blair With Project (1999), when the idea of some creeped out kids filming strange inexplicable occurrences on a video camera was still original enough to produce shivers amongst audiences. Admittedly though some recent films incorporating the method, like Rec (2007) and Paranormal Activity (2007), still manage to result in a taut and unsettling experience, this is as much due to their story and sharp, clever dialogue, as to the format used to put it over. That is of course the secret – a strong premise is the most important factor from which everything else will follow.
Which is the main thing The Sigil doesn’t have. Everything about this film lacks life, from its limited premise which fails to hold your attention due to its endless plot holes (and the fact the real horror isn’t revealed until the closing ten minutes in a climax which feels rushed and hence confusing), to a cast whose amateur acting capabilities result in the watcher feeling next to no empathy with the characters they’re ‘attempting’ to portray. Add to this a setting which gives the appearance the producers had an extremely limited budget to cover location costs, and the result is a disappointingly lacklustre effort to produce tepid thrills from a combination of done-to-death horror ingredients.
I’d like to continue, but feel I’ve already given The Sigil way more space than it deserves. Perhaps if it had been stronger in other areas, it might have got away with the now, lets be honest, passé found footage format. As it is I’d suggest that it would have been better if this film had remained lost.