Hail Mary, full of angst…
‘Catholic high school girls in trouble’, well perhaps not quite that, but the modern religious setting does allow a nice angle on some fairly well trodden-in plotlines and visually interesting by-the-numbers slashing.
‘The Sinners’ is set in a rural US town and follows the evolving drama of the group of girls contentiously dubbed ‘The Sins’ for their rebellious and unscrupulous behaviours. After being grassed up to the local pastor by one of their classmates, they decide to play a little prank on the snitch, one which predictably goes awry resulting in the girl going missing in the woods. Whilst her fate remains unknown the Sins find they’ve got problems of their own as someone is offing them one by one, but is it judgement or revenge?
Aesthetically the film is modern, with all the tropes in keeping with modern sentiments and social fashions, but beneath its glossy surface lies all the hallmarks of the early 2000s teen horrors with a plot which blurs the lines between drama and slasher films – similar to the second wave of slashers which followed ‘Scream’ such as ‘Cherry Falls’ and the ilk. The film doesn’t suffer for it, but its clear that this film is not aiming to be offensively violent, as it is wanting to be relatable to a young audience; how that appeals to you, will of course depend on your context.
Plot wise, there’s plenty going on, nothing new, or particularly stand out, but there’s enough attention to detail with character, location and pacing to keep things engaging. The opening sections of the film deal with ‘The Sins’ who are a group of fairly stereotypical rebel teens, but the performances are strong, and the characters remain just the right side of annoying. The story gets going as you’ve seen a hundred times before, but as I’ve said already, its familiar enough for you to just sit in and relax. There is a broad set of more mature supporting characters, all with their own backstories and intricacies which gives the film a more grounded feeling and helps to stop the film descending into a teen soap.
‘The Sinner’s’ has a few things to say in its subtext – as you would expect, the usual attacks on religion, hypocrisy and the overall ‘beast of man’ stuff, but overall the film chooses to play things safe and whilst themes are there, the films doesn’t really rear its head out of the pack to make a statement of any sorts – this is just entertainment; refreshingly so.
Once the film gets going it moves at a brisk pace. The murders vary from fairly typical bloodless slashing to more stylised hints at torture and themed victim reveals. There’s an attempt to build in some mystique around the killer and their motives and MO, specifically around the ‘seven deadly sins’ theme, but it doesn’t quite carry off. Indeed, there’s quite a few themes and plot pushes which come in at around the half way mark which could have been enhancing to the films plot and characters, however, they all sort of pile in at once and the story begins to get a bit muddled; with the themes and tone of the film shifting from a typical teen slasher, to a more thriller-esk police investigation style.
Thankfully the film has done enough by this point to keep you focussed, so whilst the new storylines are introduced (which are ironically more interesting than the films main school girl concepts), you can just sit back and go with it, its just a shame that some of these themes couldn’t have been brought in a bit earlier – especially as these new characters are actually really interesting, and it would have be a stronger film overall if the killer had gotten a bit more attention in this way throughout the film.
Speaking of killing, like I said, the violence in this film is definitely style over substance. This is not a bloody or violent film, with more violence left to suggestion than anything else. That said, the set pieces are as well shot and orchestrated as the rest of the movie, so there’s no feeling too short changed. My only criticism is, as I’ve already said, the big reveal towards the end falls a little flat because not enough attention was given to the mystique of the killer earlier on in the film.
Ironically, time was invested heavily in establishing the characters of ‘The Sins’ to establish them as more than just slasher fodder, when ultimately that’s all they became!
Overall, ‘The Sinners’ is a fairly familiar feeling film with modern looks and cliches, culminating in an easy to watch slasher cum thriller. Its well shot, stylishly produced with some decent writing to carry along the ultimately generic plot. It could have been better, well from a thriller perspective, and it could have been more violent, from a slasher perspective, but with that said, it’s an overall enjoyable horror which feels perhaps better than it technically is. For a younger horror audience ‘The Sinners’ is well worth checking out.