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.
If one were to judge a film only on its opening scenes, The Secret of Sinchanee would soar ahead of the competition on points alone. The short but striking opening of a bloodied character in winter woodlands is followed by an “In a Galaxy Far Away” lore drop and then another equally curious—and seemingly chilly—introductory sequence. We learn that it is near Christmas in a snow-covered town somewhere between Inceston, Alaska and Cousinwed, Colorado. The film then begins (again) with a found footage/investigation tape montage talking about some bizarre Christmas mystery. The film then finally starts in the present day with a realtor trying to sell off what seems to be a haunted or otherwise compromised property. Finally, at the twelve-minute mark, the film begins again with a guy sleeping on a couch. Thereafter, at about a quarter of an hour in, we have what I finally think might be the end of the beginning of the film and the beginning of the rest of the film…maybe.
All jests aside, the plot is confusing. There’s a mountain of backstory that we are meant to digest from the start and the rest is explained through jilted dreams and half-hearted hauntings. As we progress through the story, we’re served a mixed bag of film elements and overused tropes that include creepy children and their echoing laughter, jump scares, mirror tricks, supernatural detective work, haunted basements, and devil worship. It’s not all bad though, with the film having a fair number of highs and lows.
Production-wise, The Secret of Sinchanee is more than fine—it’s actually good, with the shots being quite smart and conceptual, the cinematography really well planned and the score beautifully in sync with the rest of the details. The acting was far better than what I was prepared for and was pleasantly professional, if not great. Sure, it starts as a total mess and leaves a lot wanting, but the film gets progressively better with each passing minute and there are a few hundred minutes that pass. It’s not a sprint, but more of a marathon.
I was particularly impressed with the performances by Nate Boyer (“Mayans M.C”) and Tamara Austin (“The Walking Dead”), who were easily the best part of the film. Both shared great chemistry as the detective couple sent in to investigate the mysterious disappearance of a single mother. With a story that was oftentimes confusing and a plot that was difficult to follow, Boyer and Austin provided something of a rock or foundation that kept the film watchable and enjoyable, even through the most glaring of plot holes.
I often found myself invested at one point and then perplexed the next and while everything is eventually resolved in a rather unexpected climax, the film has a certain charm about it that allowed me to look past my annoyances and enjoy the experience. The Secret of Sinchanee will definitely not be making any of my “top of 2021” lists, but I’m glad that I stuck it out and enjoyed the ride.
If you like films that dabble in the occult with a heavy dose of native American lore and mysticism or even shows like True Detective where policework crosses over into the supernatural, then this will probably scratch that itch. The film takes a good while before it’s firing on all cylinders and it definitely chooses a road less travelled, but it’s absolutely worth a watch. Thanks for reading and as always, stay sordid. Trailer and poster below.
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