Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

Why Sinister's Attic Set Was Such A Nightmare To Build

Unleashed with little fanfare on woefully unprepared movie-goers in 2012, the low-budget horror film "Sinister" proceeded to deliver a soul-wrenching experience that at one time was actually determined by science to be "the scariest movie ever made." And while it seems that "Sinister" was recently deposed by the fright-fest "Host" as the spookiest flick ever, based on elevated heartbeats-per-minute (via Broadband Choices), the film remains a true genre classic and beloved, fear-inducing favorite of cinematic horror buffs.

Helmed by "Black Phone" director Scott Derrickson and featuring that film's star Ethan Hawke, "Sinister" tells the story of a has-been crime writer whose last money-making book was published a decade ago. Desperate for a new hit, he moves his family into a house with a history of horrific murders, neglecting to tell the family about the home's gruesome past. Then, rummaging in the attic, he finds a box of old Super 8 reels that contain flesh-crawling snuff movies from years ago. Fascinated, he spends more and more time with the old movies, hoping to find clues to the perpetrator of the gruesome, filmed killings.

But in the process, he exposes his unsuspecting family to a diabolically lethal threat beyond his, or anyone else's, imagination. Notable for being filmed basically within the single set of the movie's nightmarishly-haunted house, it turns out that building the attic component of that set was, appropriately enough, an absolute nightmare.

The proposed attic set for Sinister was too complex and expensive to build

Interviewed by SlashFilm's Ryan Scott, the movie's production designer David Brisbin recalled that writer and director Scott Derrickson and co-writer Robert Cargill "Went into it laser-focused on having a story that essentially takes place in one house." Brisbin added that he felt both men understood how the production would be constrained by its bare-bones financing. "They weren't pretending," he said. "They knew it was to be a small-budget film."

But in the same interview, art director John El Manahi noted that he still had to point out to Brisbin and the others that "David [Brisbin's] plan for the attic was way more ambitious than what we could build. That whole interior of the attic was a stage build." 

El Manahi went on to say that he was the one responsible for explaining that the budget simply couldn't accommodate the complex attic set that everyone else envisioned. "I had to deliver a lot of bad news," he said, clarifying that basic construction materials and build-time for the set they had specified in the script would raise the price beyond the film's ability to pay. "I had to be like, 'David, I'm sorry, you can't do that,'" he told Brisbin. Still, as the film's eventual popularity would prove, the modest budget for "Sinister" didn't keep it from rising to true horror-classic status.