Sometimes when I watch a movie I fantasize that there is a slightly different (and better) movie going on right under the surface, which erupts only occasionally into the actual movie itself. I felt this especially acutely when I was watching the ending to the monster movie Sinister, which seemed to hint that another story — perhaps written by Neil Gaiman or Catherynne N. Valente — had been going on right behind the little girl Ashley's bedroom door. Here's what I think that story was. See if you agree.
Needless to say, I'm talking about the ending of Sinister, people. Major spoilers!
So in the final act of Sinister, our annoying main character Ellison has discovered two things: 1) The monster haunting him, Mr. Boogie AKA Bagul, is actually a monster who focuses on children; and 2) Bagul is a monster who comes into the world through art. Since we know Ellison is in fact not a child, nor a good writer, it becomes obvious that the monster's true target is the young Ashley, a preternaturally talented artist.
By this final act of the film we also know that Ellison treats his family like crap — especially Ashley. He uproots the family over and over, only to move them into grisly crime scenes as he hopelessly pursues the fame he lost a decade before. He keeps insisting to Ashley's mother that this move is the last one, and that he'll stop trying to write true crime bestsellers if this one doesn't work out. And when Ashley tries to be nice to him, bringing him a cup of coffee in his locked study, he stares right through her, thanks her absently, then slams the door in her face.
And this is where I think the other story starts. Ashley is obviously a smart kid, and we know she's an amazing artist with a giant imagination. I think that she called Bagul down as revenge on her crappy dad and oblivious family. When Bagul and his undead kids arrive in the house, she can see them and they offer her a freedom from the dreary life of her failed, drunk dad, her enabling mom, and her annoying brother. When we see those spooky kids from Ellison's perspective, they look terrifying. But from Ashley's perspective they are like dark fae, free to run wild under the protection of Bagul.
The more that Ashley talks to Bagul and the ghost children, the more convinced she becomes that she wants to join their dark world inside the movies and art that they inhabit. So she decides to kill her family in the most artistic way she can, smearing their blood into amazing images on the walls. She even deals the death blow to daddy by bringing him a cup of drugged coffee — a mean little callback to the time she tried to be nice to him and he ignored it.
If only this movie had started with Ashley slaughtering her family in an act of crazy revenge, so that she could become an art spectre who lures other angry, alienated kids into Bagul's world. It could have been like a darker version of Gaiman's Neverwhere, or maybe a variation on Valente's novel Palimpsest. Basically, it would become a mind-bending portal fantasy about the place kids go when Narnia is too nicey-nice and death is too boring.
What I'm saying is, who cares about what happened to Ellison? He was an idiot. But Ashley, who just has been carried into the world of art like a bride in Bagul's arms? I want to know what's going on with her.