Written and directed by lead actor Steven Grayhm, an industrial tow truck driver suffering from insomnia returns to his childhood home after the untimely death of his father, to discover that a paranormal presence has been living in the house and haunting the sacred land it was built on. Also starring: Laila Lockhart Kraner, Rudy Reyes, Tamara Austin, Chris Neville, Margarita Reyes, Mark Oliver, Kathleen Kenny and Nate Boyer.
The Secret of Sinchanee opens on strong footing, building a classic supernatural and mysterious atmosphere, moving slowly but purposefully. It kicks off its edge of danger, starting down a path to gradually reveal the dark secrets this place holds. Sadly this more subtle, effective style gives way to a more overt, straight horror and the story goes downhill from there. It reveals more and more of its weaknesses with that change in style, the poorly constructed characters and unnatural progression. The pacing doesn’t allow for a satisfying reveal, it’s too much too soon and overly plays its hand.
The sheer difference in tone and atmosphere in the first and second halves of the film almost make it feel as though it was directed by two different people. It’s initial subtlety gives way to a typical, over the top, attempt at shock and scare which is disappointing to see. The one more consistent element is the benefit of such a naturally aesthetic location, wilderness, snow and isolation will always add value. Although it still can’t make up for the film’s slowly declining atmosphere. Grayhm forgot the key lesson from horror that unless you’re going for something outlandish and violent, less is more, let the audience’s imagination work for you.
Again, with the film going over the top, the characters do much of the same. Nate Boyer’s Detective Drew Carter particularly falls prey to this, his character is sadly drowning in clichés of police personnel and has little to add. Tamara Austin’s Detective Carrie Donovan starts out on stronger footing but then quickly falls apart, becoming overly afraid and meek which is a very disappointing turn of events. Steven Grayhm on the other hand does well to keep an air of mystery, his character’s journey may be divisive but his performance is consistent and holds the strongest presence. The surprise here is Laila Lockhart Kraner, who gives a solid performance and it’s genuinely a shame she isn’t more involved in the story.
The Secret of Sinchanee starts out strong but sadly gives in to a cliched style as time goes on. Its initial subtle touch is forgone for shocks and scares which don’t land gracefully, doing an injustice to the otherwise suspenseful atmosphere it has built. The cast is a mixed bag, but it’s an issue that originates with the writing missing more developed, individual characters. It’s a well intentioned horror that gets lost among the trees but there will always be a time when people are searching for an easy, entertaining watch like this.