I am not the biggest fan of teen horror films if truth be told – so I initially ignored The Sinners when it popped up at the genre festivals last year. However, the synopsis and the promise of an independently made Mean Girls meets the Craft film eventually won me over. Given this is aimed at teens and has a 15 certificate I was expecting this film to focus on the darker aspects of teen angst rather than being truly scary. I opened a bottle of wine, lit some candles and got my nail varnish at the ready. This was a film for a (solo) girls night in.
Seven A-list high schoolers from a religious town are a tight clique. Yet they are ridiculed by their classmates who call them the Seven Deadly Sins. Tired of the torment – led by Grace (Kaitlyn Bernard) they decide to play up to their reputation – pushing their parents conservative boundaries by hanging out with boys, cheating tests, wearing make up and generally having a rebellious attitude. You know. Teen stuff.
Only the trouble with that is, one of them, Aubrey (Brenna Llewellyn) has been keeping incredibly detailed notes of all of the girls’ wrongdoings and is becoming increasingly jealous of Grace’s prowess in the classroom. Grace’s father is the local pastor. Aubrey goes to confess her – and the other girls’- sins, and as can be expected things do not go well at home with Grace’s family. As you would expect from any teenager, this just makes her raise the stakes and push the limits even further.
Suddenly these fun games are dashed into a million pieces when they take it a bit too far and one of them ends up dead. From that point forward each of the girls become targets – but who is killing off these girls?
The Sinners has no holds approach to subjects like sexuality, sex, religion, marriage, jealousy and revenge are approached without subtlety. The Sinners has a brilliantly modern soundtrack with pops of retro soul, including an excellent cover of “Smells Like Teen Spirit” by Sofia Karlberg. I definitely felt the Cult Teen Movie energy – even the cast look remarkably similar to those in Mean Girls! The twist ending isn’t necessarily a shock – but the way it’s hidden within another twist is satisfying even if a little confusing. This was a bold piece from Director Courtney Paige. There was just the right amount of gore, titillation, and teenage tropes for me to enjoy The Sinners.
The Sinners downfall may also be its charm for some. There are the classic horror clichés such as the bumbling cop, ham acting and satanic cults. The bumbling cop line did little to progress the story and his colleagues coming from the City simply to stir things up and put him down just added to the confusion in the third act. Whilst the main actors performances were satisfactory, there were some poor performances in the supporting case, most notably at one of the girls funeral.
Likewise there was a reference to Grace belonging to a satanic cult but the point of this is quickly lost. Grace does not become a Satanist, but rather is inspired to recreate a ritual in order to scare Aubrey. I am surely not alone in getting tired of any cults in horror films being linked to Satan – at least The Craft mentioned Loki.
I don’t feel this film will appeal to everyone. But if your guilty pleasure is watching films such as Cruel Intentions, I Know What You Did Last Summer, and Heathers, and the like then The Sinners is a perfect watch for quiet night in. Glass of wine and candles optional.
Signature Entertainment presents The Sinners on Digital Platforms 22nd February