Near the beginning of The Secret of Sinchanee there’s a title card that tells us that the Sinchanee were a peaceful mixed-race tribe found to have immunity to the diseases brought from Europe. And that the disciples of a sect of pagan witches called Alantow vowed to eradicate them. And the area around Deerfield MA. is the location for mysterious events. Having set up its mythology the film’s story starts.
Christmas 1995, a woman and her young daughter are murdered, her son somehow survives, brought to his grandfather’s house by a mysterious Native American man. Now, in the present day, the boy’s father has died and Will Stark (Steven Grayhm, Wyatt Earp’s Revenge, House of Dust) is returning to the family home for the first time in years.
Detective Carrie Donovan (Tamara Austin, The Walking Dead) has been transferred from Boston to Deerfield much to the dismay of her daughter Ava (Laila Lockhart Kraner, Jacob Two-Two, Gabby’s Dollhouse). Called to the scene of an accident she finds Drew Carter (Nate Boyer, Mayans M.C.) a detective with Boston homicide, and Ava’s father, already on the scene. Carrie, Drew and Will are about to be caught up in something that goes way beyond what any of them could imagine.
Apart from starring in the film, Steven Grayhm also wrote and directed The Secret of Sinchanee. While he has a list of credits as an actor this is the first feature he’s written or directed. That becomes apparent from all of the unnecessary scenes and scenes that go on longer than they need to. Trimming these would have helped the film’s pace with drags over its nearly two-hour length.
It would also make some of the film’s more subtle scares a bit more likely to work. There are several creepy scenes involving something in the darkened background, but viewers may well have lost focus due to the scene dragging out. There are also some effective jump scares and a couple of unsettling nightmares and hallucinations in the first hour. None of it is particularly original, but it’s fairly effective considering The Secret of Sinchanee’s pacing.
“This is a deeply personal film that tackles incredibly challenging themes of xenophobia, childhood trauma, and mental health issues, testing the confines of the horror/thriller genre.”Steven Grayhm writer/director/star
Finally, around the hour mark, the missing persons’ case the cops are working on intersects with Will’s and The Secret of Sinchanee changes direction from a basic haunted house film into one involving PTSD, crimes against Native American tribes, curses, possession and, of course, a house built on sacred land.
There’s so much going on that it feels like The Secret of Sinchanee could, and probably should have been two separate movies. Or a multi-part production for Netflix or Shudder. Even after the two stories cross they don’t integrate smoothly. After an hour and a half, the script still needs to explain the involvement of the Sinchanee via a character tell it to us the story. And the scenes with Carrie and Drew arguing over their personal relationship seem totally out of place.
It’s too bad because The Secret of Sinchanee isn’t a bad film on the level of The Haunting of Hythe House or Amityville Cult, it has several good scenes scattered through it. But they get lost in all the extraneous material and poor plot choices. Grayhm has potential as a filmmaker, but he needs to learn to control his ambition as well as edit his writing and what he shoots. At ninety minutes this could have been an engaging thriller. Blown out to a hundred and fifteen it’s a mess that will have you hitting fast forward.
Vertical Entertainment will release The Secret of Sinchanee in select theatres as well as On Demand and Digital HD on October 8th. You can check their website for more information.