Normally it's hard to maintain a solid atmosphere when half the supporting cast sounds like Mayor Quimby but The Secret of Sinchanee from Vertical Entertainment manages to pull it off while still feeling authentically New England.
Steven Grayhm's feature directing debut opens with about a quarter-Dune's worth of exposition. To be fair, this does represent the film's only real failing. There is a LOT stuffed into the two hour runtime. Granted, what's there “generally” has some nice room to breathe (generally) but it still feels like too much. The story can become muddled and difficult to follow, particularly at the end, one character ends up a human McGuffin, that sort of thing. That said, every other aspect is handled expertly. Acting, directing, music and ESPECIALLY the cinematography. No joke, this is one of the most gorgeously shot films I've seen in months and it really captures the stark beauty of a Massachusett's Winter.
We used to have Winters, if you remember.
Anyhow, the story goes that in the eighteenth century the mixed-race Sinchanee tribe were persecuted by a group of violent settlers (more violent than the others, apparently) called the Disciples of Atlantow, rumored to be deep into witchcraft. Their hatred for the tribe tainted the land and, to this day, there are unexplained paranormal echoes across what is now Deerfield, MA.
Jump forward to 1995 when little Will Stark (Emmett Spriggs) and his sister Grace (Alexa Luippold) come across a mysterious black arrowhead while exploring the forest. Innocent enough, at first, but something happens when they return home to their parents. Something horrific (though we don't know what yet). And the reverberations of that night are felt in the modern day. Will, now an adult (Grayhm), must face his past and the sinister presence that still haunts his family home.
From the description you can probably tell this is wisely laid out like a mystery. With the dense backstory, that's the best way to go. Gives the whole thing kind of a giallo edge. Everything does unfold pretty organically, too, and the detectives covering the case (Tamara Austin and Nate Boyer) are compelling and charismatic. There's even an exceptional child actor in Laila Lockhart Kraner who nails every scene she's in. One reaction in particular gave me a genuine laugh. Really hope she sticks with acting because I could see a bright future for her.
And again, I can't emphasize enough just how stunning this movie looks. The snow, the aerial photography, heavy shadows and contrasting blues and oranges. Logan Fulton, the film's cinematographer, deserves special praise. Makes everything feel like a bigger production. Easier to forgive the shortcomings in story, that's for sure.
Overall, The Secret of Sinchanee is not perfect but it has more than enough going for it that it makes for an engaging watch. Think Ghostkeeper with a bit of Ravenous. Once you can cut through some of the Wahlberg accents, you've got a nice wintery ghost story with some real substance behind it.
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