Religious horror has a long history in the genre. An increased fascination with the occult in the 1970s – and the success of Rosemary’s Baby and The Exorcist – saw Hollywood studios scaring North American audiences back into the pews. In addition to this pro-faith horror movement, filmmakers have often used the horror genre to put religious dogma under a microscope. Among this week’s new horror releases, indie outing Sin Eater looks to put a spin on the Welsh folklore around sin-eaters. This is an under-the-radar release with no reviews floating around yet.
Trying to escape a tragic past, Christine survives a car crash outside a small, remote town. When she wakes up she finds her mouth wired shut and under the care of the town sheriff and his pastor father. But her caretakers – and the town itself- harbor a dark secret. As each day passes, Christine sees and hears increasingly strange things. And in the basement, the town pastor and townspeople practice a strange religion. Is it too late for her to leave?
Sin Eater Serves Up an Unconventional Approach to Religious Horror
With his feature-length debut, writer and director Carmelo Chimera takes the road less travelled with the Sin Eater premise. Specifically, Sin Eater immediately drops the audience into its small town where Christine already finds herself bedridden – and mouth wired shut – in the town sheriff’s home. Moreover, the religious thriller wisely avoids many of the tropes associated with religious horror. Instead, Chimera drops bits of information here and there alongside close-ups of raw hunks of meat. No, it isn’t particularly subtle even it avoids most conventional storytelling pitfalls. The foreshadowing doesn’t betray anything most viewers couldn’t figure out on their own.
…the religious thriller avoids many of the tropes associated with religious horror.
If Sin Eater doesn’t feel like a tired retread, it still riddles itself with lapses in logic. Wouldn’t you wonder why you’re not in a hospital after a car crash? And the flashbacks have at least one major continuity error that sticks out. What’s also missing fare any discernible scares. At no point in the movie does Chimera elevate the stakes and push audiences to the edge of their seats. Even for a movie about the literal eating of sins, Sin Eater never fells transgressive. In addition, you’ll be keenly aware of the low budget in a handful of poorly lit and staged scenes. Yet Sin Eater pulls off something of an interesting finale.
Sin Eater Won’t Sway Many Converts With Its Performances
Aside from horror veteran Bill Mosely (The Devil’s Rejects, Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part 2), Sin Eater features an inexperienced cast. Too bad Mosely isn’t around much – his appearances are regulated to a handful of flashbacks. Yet even small doses of Mosely are welcome. Front row and center, Jessie Nerud, playing ‘Christine’, probably gives the movie’s best performance. While it’s a necessity given the story, Chimera’s decision to have Christine’s mouth wired shut ultimately hurts her performance. Most of the time it’s difficult to decipher what she’s saying, which undercuts what is a genuinely good performance.
Some of the actors are wooden, others confuse speaking loudly with emoting.
As we move on from Nerud’s work in Sin Eater, the remaining performances markedly drop off. Unfortunately, no one else turns in work that remotely passes as convincing. Some of the actors are wooden, others confuse speaking loudly with emoting. No one expects Oscar-worthy performances from an indie horror movie. In the absence of a truly gonzo story or splatter effects, however, Sin Eater needed a little more depth to sell its story. What we get in place of depth is some stiff work that often takes you out of the moment.
Sin Eater May Require a Palette Cleanser After Watching
On one hand, Sin Eater benefits from its indie roots, which allow Chimera to avoid a conventional storytelling approach. And Sin Eater will keep most viewers watching right up to a nearly satisfying finale. The movie is by no means a trainwreck. Nonetheless, weak performances, poor lighting, and lapses in logic make it difficult to recommend this one.