“This story isn’t about truth, or love,” says Aubrey Miller (Brenna Llewellyn) in “The Sinners,” now streaming on VOD, “this story is about sin.” Actually, it’s a story that feels like a time machine mash up of movies like “Cruel Intentions,” “The Craft” and “Mean Girls.”
Set in a small evangelical town, “The Sinners” is the story of a group of girls who rebel by forming a clique to personify the seven deadly sins, pride, greed, lust, envy, gluttony, wrath, and sloth. At the head is local pastor’s daughter Grace Carver (Kaitlyn Bernard) who represents lust. When she gets wind that Aubrey, who embodies pride, told Pastor Carver about the girl gang’s name The Sins and then, as if that wasn’t bad enough, had the temerity to write about their transgressions in her diary, she flips. “We have been betrayed,” she tells the other Sinners. “We have a rat amongst us and action must be taken.”
Before Aubrey arrives at a group meeting for what she thinks is a bible study class, Grace (who by this point is wearing Halloween devil horns) tells the gang, “We’re going to get wild tonight and push her beyond her breaking point. It’s time we take our sins to the next level.”
When the gang decides to throw a scare into her by staging a kidnapping, things go wrong and Aubrey vanishes into the woods. As the investigation into her disappearance amps up strange things happen, revealing the small town’s dark underbelly. Are the Sinners really sinners, or are they victims?
It’s an easy enough plot to follow, but if you do get lost director Courtney Paige “helpfully” provides a roadmap in the form of narration I suppose is supposed to lend a “Memento” vibe but simply tells us things we mostly already know. Add to that the repetitive procedural nature of the story and you’re left with a film that could have explored the hot button push and pull between faith and more terrestrial concerns, but instead chooses atmosphere over fear.
Points to Holly Amber Church who provides a suitably moody score, but beyond that “The Sinners” commits the cardinal cinematic sin of not grabbing the audience’s attention.