Picture a teen, high-school comedy with a dose of horror; Mean Girls meets murder. That’s where The Sinners – the latest release from Signature Entertainment, out on digital on February 22nd, and known as The Color Rose overseas – slots in: a lean, mean horror-thriller that hits the spot, even if it doesn’t exactly tread new ground.
The films follows Grace (Kaitlyn Bernard), one-seventh of the high school clique known as the Sinners where, similar to Se7en, each girls represents one of the deadly sins. She’s the daughter of the local priest, but she’s certainly not his biggest confidante: instead it is Aubrey (Brenna Llewelyn), a devout Christian and member of the Sinners, who rats out her friends for their misgivings and debauchery. Revenge is on the cards, as Grace et al. decide to teach Aubrey a lesson by kidnapping and murdering her, but when she goes missing, and other Sinners drop off, a bigger mystery is unveiled…
If that sounds like a film you’ve seen before but can’t put a finger on, you’re probably right: The Sinners certainly isn’t here to break any new ground, but as a nifty thriller, it does the job. The members of the Sinners aren’t particularly engaging – there’s stereotypes abound, and they’re written very thinly – but for their purpose of being the fodder for a mystery to unravel, the script certainly does the job.
After a slightly drab opening act, the film really kicks into gear at the half-hour mark, with occult imagery and strange, disorienting dream sequences. This is where the more horror-based elements start to emerge: there’s clearly some level of religious commentary a la The Exorcist here, but it’s never quite explored enough, and it certainly feels like director Courtney Paige could’ve ramped up the brutality a bit. The subject matter here is suitably dark – psychological torture, satanic rituals and grisly murders – but there’s not quite enough gore to match those tone, and it feels a bit like a missed opportunity.
In fact, The Sinners perhaps feels better suited to TV than the big screen. With a cast of characters so large and a plot that goes to several big places, it at times feels like an eight-episode series condensed into 90-minutes. The payoff of some of the plot threads here – like the ultimate ‘big reveal’, and the last-minute addition of a new set of police officers – don’t have the impact they could’ve in a long-form format, and would’ve allowed the experience to be altogether more satisfying.
But that’s not to say The Sinners doesn’t do exactly what it says on the tin: it’s a solid teen-horror that hits the high-school beats and is dark to enough to please any horror fan, with enough twists and turns to keep you watching – even if you aren’t invested in the characters. At times it subverts expectations, whereas at others it sticks very loyally to the material it was clearly influenced by, but for an easy-going horror watch, you can’t go wrong with The Sinners.