Rating: R, for disturbing violent images and some terror.

"Sinister" goes about as far as a horror movie can with just shocking images, a good cast and outstanding sound design. But this modestly creepy blend of "The Ring" and "The Shining" whiffs on a horror-film fundamental: Nobody seems that scared.

What fear there is is faced by one person, and he's very slow to get alarmed over frightful encounters.

Ellison Oswalt (Ethan Hawke), a true-crime author in desperate need of a hit, doesn't tell his wife (Juliet Rylance) and family that he's moved them into a house that was the scene of a mass murder. He sees nothing weird in the fact that he finds old home movies of that murder (a whole family hanged) and many other murders, and the projector that will show them, all out in the open at what was a onetime crime scene.

But logical lapses aside, "Sinister" telegraphs its revelations, and co-writer/ director Scott Derrickson forgets that what we don't see, or only glimpse, is far more frightening than trotting out things that simply cannot be and giving away the game. Still, a tip of the hat to sound designers Mark Aramian and Dane A Davis, who concocted a static-filled, scratchy old music-loop aural milieu for this spookiness to take place in.

If "Sinister" looked and played as insidious as their soundtrack suggests, they'd have had something -- another "Insidious," for instance. They don't.



Step Up to the Plate

★★★ out of four stars

Unrated; suitable for all audiences. In subtitled French. Theater: Edina.

There's a shot of stunning beauty near the opening of this French documentary. Before director Paul Lacoste digs into the family politics of running a renowned restaurant, he shows us the intricate care with which top chef Michel Bras composes a salad. A magical montage shows how he daubs the plate with dressings, adding dozens of individually prepared vegetables, bulbs, leaves, roots, seed pods, flowers and fruits. Finally he has composed a breathtaking culinary bouquet too beautiful to eat and too tempting to resist.

Bras, who runs his restaurant in southern France with his adult son, Sebastian, is a perfectionist whose brilliant talent has created a rich legacy (and responsibility) for his son to inherit. The film records the hand-over of the three-star Michelin restaurant in 2010, finding understated poignancy in Sebastian's self-doubt. It's impossible to witness Sebastian's second-guessing when he contemplates recipes, and his intense concentration as he savors ingredients, without empathy. Foodies will drink in the beauty of the meal preparation and the stunning architecture of the modernist restaurant. Anyone attuned to clan dynamics will appreciate the mix of tension and pride involved in the passing of the mantle from father to son, whom he is enriching, and ensnaring.