The Sinners review – inept teen horror dead on arrival

A cultish clique of teenage bullies commit a sin against cinema’s first commandment to show, don’t tell

Several past-it tropes from 1990s and 00s teen horror films strut the corridors of high school once more in this debut by director Courtney Paige. In a devoutly Christian small town, local preacher’s daughter Grace Carver (Kaitlyn Bernard) rebels against her conservative community by wearing scarlet lipstick and conducting a strenuously titillating affair with her BFF (very Cruel Intentions). The actual scandal though is her cultish clique, the Sins (very The Craft), founded with six of her naughtiest classmates. The group is so named because each member is reputed to embody a different one of the seven cardinal vices. Flirtatious Grace is Lust, rich girl Katie is Greed and so on.

When “Pride”, AKA Aubrey (Brenna Llewellyn), is perceived to have transgressed their code – by recording her innermost thoughts in a leather-bound journal (very Mean Girls) – Grace and her acolytes commence a ruthless bullying campaign that culminates in Aubrey’s disappearance on the edge of the woods. The town’s well-meaning but bumbling sheriff, Fred Middleton (Aleks Paunovic), investigates (a nod to Scream’s Deputy Dewey), as a remorseful Grace scrambles to destroy any evidence of her involvement. Then the rest of the Sins start turning up dead, their corpses prettily accessorised with a single rose pressed between their lips.

That would be enough to keep most girls quiet, but not Aubrey, whose verbose beyond-the-grave narration commits many sins against cinema’s first commandment of “show, don’t tell”. There is also one of those dastardly villains who, once unmasked, can’t resist putting off an escape to lay out their entire warped plan in detail. Even with such lengthy explanation, the characters’ motivations and plot twist doesn’t make much sense. At least The Sinners’ sexy-schoolgirl-corpse aesthetic – part Twin Peaks, part Ariana Grande music video – is too ineptly executed to truly offend.

• Available from 22 February on digital platforms.


Ellen E Jones

The GuardianTramp

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