A family tragedy, bloodlines and a dark legacy haunt The Secret of Sinchanee.
After his father’s death, Will (Stephen Grayhm) must deal with unresolved feelings when inheriting his childhood home. No one in town wants to buy it since it’s shrouded in mystery, so Will moves in despite his apprehension. Soon, terrifying nightmares plague him, and his increasingly strange behaviour isolates him from his friends and job as a truck mechanic. Transplanted Boston detective Carrie Davidson (Tamara Austin) and her colleague and ex Drew Carter (Nate Boyer) find a woman’s body with pagan-like markings, and Will’s past may have ties to her. These strange occurrences make the small town of Deerfield, Massachusetts, rife with dark histories and pagan cults, a place where destinies collide, and danger looms. It’s up to Davidson to figure out who—or what—is behind this mystery before it takes hold of her own family.
Visually, The Secret of Sinchanee offers a lot of eerie shots, with spectres lurking in the corners and creepy nightmare sequences. Grayhm, who also wrote and directed the film, created an interesting concept that doesn’t quite hit the mark. These days, filmmakers need to ensure that they clearly state their connection to Indigenous culture. Grayhm’s bio says that he has Indigenous ties through his father, and in interviews, he mentioned he wanted to connect with his Indigenous heritage. I appreciate that but to honour cultural sensitivity, I want a full director’s statement and clear notes on the film to avoid accusations of appropriation and put viewers at ease with the knowledge that this isn’t just mining tropes—even if the Sinchanee is a fictitious tribe. As a woman of colour, I want filmmakers to have accountability and collaboration if they aren’t a part of the group they’re writing about and ask themselves why the story is being told. Yes, I want a lot, but isn’t it time?
I did like that the production hired military veterans as cast and crew, and acknowledged the missing Indigenous women and girls and gave it a reason. The film also rightfully targets white settlers as the villains here, but the muddled third act didn’t bring the story together. Still, Grayhm gives an intense performance, along with Austin, who ramps up the suspenseful tone as her character struggles with her beliefs.
The Secret of Sinchanee is an atmospheric feature debut for this promising Canadian actor/director. I think he’s on his way to creating some great horror in the future; he just needs to be clear in his intentions.