February 15, 2021 The Sinners (Movie Review)
Are you sick and tired of being daddy’s good little girl? Have you ever wanted to be naughty? Well, please remember that secrets are meant to be kept. As a stern reminder to keep your loose lips shut, Brainstorm Media delivers a new Teen Thriller entitled The Sinners to On Demand beginning Friday, February 19, 2021.
The Sinners was directed by Courtney Paige (The Arrangement series, Incision 2020), who co-wrote the screenplay alongside Erin Hazlehurst (Dragged Home mini-series, Flimsy series) and Madison Smith, an actor known for the series The Order and NarcoLeap. Its story revolves around seven sinful schoolgirls, led by lusty Grace (Kaitlyn Bernard: The Healer 2016, 1922 2017). Dubbed “The Sins”’ by their classmates, the group also features greedy Katie (Keilani Elizabeth Rose: Woodland 2018, Flimsy series), envious Stacey (Jasmine Randhawa), slothy Robyn (Natalie Malaika: Picture Day 2012, Fractured 2019), gluttonous Molly (Carly Fawcett: Only People 2018, Night Sweats 2019), wrathful Tori (Brenna Coates: Coroner series, Cagefighter 2020), and prideful Aubrey (Brenna Llewellyn: Recess: Third Street short 2019, When A Tree Falls short 2019).
Judgements are swift in their small, religious hometown—and it certainly doesn’t help that Grace’s father (Tahmoh Penikett: Battlestar Galactica series, Dollhouse series) is the local pastor—but the harshest punishment will soon come from within. When one of the girls diverts from the sisterhood the other Sins will not be so forgiving, and a lesson meant to teach one of their own that ‘loose lips sink ships’ turns into a nightmare.
The Sinners is meant to appeal to teens with its blend of intrigue and thrills, though it definitely lacks in the latter. A kind of melange of some of the best dark Teen flicks—think The Craft (1996), I Know What You Did Last Summer (1997), and Jawbreaker (1999)—but with a dash of Mean Girls (2004), the film combines some harsh religious commentary with the mystery of a missing girl and the ensuing deaths of most of her friends. You can no doubt already guess where this plot is headed.
But The Sinners isn’t a bad film. In fact, it has a lot going for it: from the stellar cinematography of Stirling Bancroft (Cadence 2016, Freaks 2018) to one of the best original soundtracks in years, composed by Holly Amber Church (Open 24 Hours 2018, Dark Light 2019) and featuring music from Adeliz, Sofia Karlberg, Superpop, Maggie King, and many more. In this, it’s a film that looks good, sounds great, and is apt to draw moviegoers in with its flashy visuals and Insta-catchy box-cover.
The issues with The Sinners are found within its screenplay, which suffers from some poorly defined intentions. Sure, at face value this is a Thriller about a group of high school girls who are being picked off one by one by an unknown killer. But the deeper message of the film, one that is beaten into our brains with a crucifix, is a deeply cynical look at a religious small town and the facades worn by many of its inhabitants. This concept has been done ad nauseum, but it’s not an entirely horrible idea; although it certainly holds little appeal for teenagers, who could care less about a hypocritical Sunday flock. While adults might not mind the blatant commentary, the plot of the film is just too obvious to hold the attention of adult viewers.
Additionally, as The Sinners is packaged and presented like a Teen Horror-Thriller, the fact that it lacks in anything remotely gruesome, creepy or humorous, there’s very little here to ‘thrill’ young viewers who have been desensitized by series like American Horror Story or films such as the Saw franchise. Which is the crux of the issue: to keep teens engaged you need action or humor, and to keep adults entertained you need suspense. This film has neither, thereby creating a 96-minute experience that is simply ineffective.
Unfortunately, while it’s clear that the filmmakers had the very best of intentions, there are just too many ideas that never pan out and no backstory on any of these characters. All we know of the main character Grace is that her father is the local pastor and a control freak, and she is a pretty young woman who is coming-of-age and exploring her sexuality. Of her friends we know even less, and some of the girls feel almost interchangeable. Then there are inclusions to the mystery, such as the use of the roses and the masks, which have a certain visual appeal but literally no purpose otherwise.
Fortunately, the acting is solid throughout, and a few slices of wit are tossed in here and there to lighten the mood, but The Sinners simply fails to define its target audience. And while this is far from a crime, it ultimately brings about the downfall of a film that looks magnificent and sounds like a dream but might have been so much more. For this, Cryptic Rock gives The Sinners 3 of 5 stars.