The Sinners Movie Review
Written by Joel Harley
Released by Signature Entertainment
Directed by Courtney Paige
Written by Erin Hazelhurst, Courtney Paige and Madison Smith
2020, 90 minutes, Rated 18
FrightFest UK Premiere on 21st October 2020
Kaitlyn Bernard as Grace Carver
Brenna Llewellyn as Aubrey Miller
Brenna Coates as Tori Davidson
Keilani Elizabeth Rose as Katie Hamilton
What's a clique of seven students to call themselves when they get together at a Catholic high school? The Seven Deadly Sins, of course. It's either handy or on the nose that each of the girls should live up to their sin – most notably the uppity Pride (Brenna Llwellyn) and the hair-trigger Wrath (Brenna Coates). After a falling out between Pride and the rest of the Sins, the girls start to go missing, one by one. Is this Pride's vengeance, or something far more sinister?
Part Mean Girls, part Scream, part The Craft, part Jennifer's Body, Courtney Paige's teen thriller is an ambitious feature debut. Paige manages the large cast well; with each of the girls embodying one of the seven sins, the characterisation has a quick and easy shorthand, if somewhat ludicrous. What, can't a girl enjoy a bag of onion rings without being stuck as Gluttony? Its mystery is engaging, building suspensefully as the Sins start disappearing... or worse.
What The Sinners does best of all is its depiction of small-town America and the highly religious community therein. What it lacks in subtlety it makes up for in style and atmospherics, filling a Craft-shaped hole audiences have been missing for some time now. At times, it can feel like TV melodrama (especially in its overbearing soundtrack), but that seems appropriate for the story and characters. The cast are a mixed bag, but the leading Brennas do well. With a cast of seven main characters, we could probably have done without the two middle-aged dudes, but Michael Eklund and Lochlyn Munro provide comic relief as the useless out-of-town detectives. It's another spinning plate in another very busy story.
While it tries to be many things, this doesn't always tie together to a cohesive whole.The more traditional slasher elements don't sit well with the quiet build up or Lovely Bones-esque “this is how I died” mystery. There are two distinctive movies here, fighting it out. While the first one – the one with the teenage girls enacting Satanic rituals and wearing creepy animal masks – is the better one, the goofy slasher film is fun too. They just don't go together very well.
Regardless, The Sinners is a fresh take on the high school horror subgenre, with an undeniable craft to it. This smart and spirited movie proves that the teenage horror film is still very much alive and kicking. It may be muddled and convoluted at times, but whoever said that growing up was easy?
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