Courtney Paige (director)
21 October 2020 (released)
23 October 2020
The seven deadly sins were well and truly sealed on celluloid by Seven many years ago. David Fincher’s bleak masterpiece seared into the mind and is the first thought when the number and the sins are mentioned, anywhere, anytime. And so that’s the case with The Sinners but there is still lots of space for other ideas.
A group of seven teenagers raised and educated in a very religious community who start their own cult, based on the seven deadly sins, as recounted by Aubrey in her voice over from the bottom of a lake...
We are introduced to the group and their embodied sins but the focus is on Grace – Lust - (Kaitlyn Bernard) one of the more wayward of the group possibly a reaction because her father (Tahmoth Penikett) is the local pastor and a fundamentalist christian constantly pushing rules and scripture.
There’s no escape at the local school where Aubrey – Pride - (Brenna Llewellyn) who is devout and excels at bible study and is an odd member of the sinful group though she – self confesses – is not without sin. And her sin causes her to rat out the group to Grace’s father, who takes action against her. The others then conspire to pinch Aubrey’s journal looking to teach her a lesson, that she doesn’t learn so they up the ante.
Aubrey goes missing, presumed dead, which leads to a cover up. One of the sinners is found dead and then another with flowers in their mouths. The group are now the target of a killer. The bodies pile up as the cops and religious community blame each other for obstruction and lack of progress.
The targets laid out early by writers Erin Hazelhurst, Madison Smith and Courtney Paige (who is also the director) are hit hard and repeatedly to the point that the instrument becomes blunt. This destabilises the film as it sets up the sinning group as the main instrument so there’s a lack of character development (other than Grace and Aubrey) leaving them to come across as a means to an end rather than the focus.
But such is the complexity of straying into these areas it becomes contentious as to who are the sinners, and in this context that relies on having faith in the belief system. That they have, as the group early on are clear that they are not atheist, just resent being overwhelmed by their faith, or the teaching of it.
Aside from the these issues the film has a textured natural beauty set in a small rural town surrounded by woodland and a lake. The large cast are excellent though we could have done without the city cops who come out to take over the case midway through the film, and leave soon after leaving characters and viewers alike wondering, what and why?
The Sinners had its UK premiere on 21 October at the Arrow Video FrightFest and available digitally in the UK 2021.