[review by JA Kerswell]
CHILDREN OF SIN is the latest film from director Christopher Wesley Moore possessed by the spirit of 80s slashers, whilst also tackling another of today's hot social topics. Moore has already dealt the thorny issues of anti-abortion activists BLESSED ARE THE CHILDREN (2016)) and 'cancel culture' (TRIGGERED (2019)), so is clearly unafraid to tackle issues other directors might shy away from. His latest offering takes aim at so-called 'conversion therapy'; the havoc it wreaks and the hypocrisy of the most pious who evangelically promote it. Shot through with jet black humour, CHILDREN OF SIN features a truly deranged storyline and one of the most memorable killers of recent slashers.
|The crazed Mary Esther (Jo-Ann Robinson) shows Emma (Moore regular Meredith Mohler) around Abraham House in CHILDREN OF SIN.|
Emma (Moore regular Meredith Mohler) and her brother Jackson (Lewis Hines) harbour secrets that they are trying to hide from their mother and her bigoted new husband Robbie (Jeff Buchwald). Emma is near suicidal and pregnant (with, as it turns out, her stepfather's baby); whilst Jackson is fighting same sex attraction - despite Emma's instance there is nothing wrong with him. When their mother discovers both of their secrets she drives her children to Abraham House; where she lies and says she will collect them from in a couple of days so they can start a new life away from Robbie. Abraham House, it soon becomes clear, is a 'conversion therapy' centre - where gay teenagers (and those pregnant out of wedlock) are urged to 'pray the sin away' and conform to sexual and societal norms. The place is run by the glassy-eyed, yet otherwise seemingly amiable, Mary Esther (Jo-Ann Robinson). At first Abraham House appears strict, but otherwise benign (if you can ignore its deeply flawed aims). In fact, some of the other teens there roll their eyes during indoctrination videos and count down the days until they finish the program. However, it soon becomes clear that no one finishes the program; rather Mary Esther finishes them off! No one is good, or redeemed enough for the increasingly deranged house mother; whose three-strikes-and-you're-out rules means exactly that. Emma and Jackson must uncover the dark truths buried at Abraham House if they ever want to make it out alive ...
|Lack of light bulbs aren't the only things plaguing the teens in CHILDREN OF SIN.|
Director Moore (who also acts here as a counsellor struggling to come to terms with his sexuality) knows his slasher lore inside and out. Removing the religious angle, the setting is reminiscent of both FRIDAY THE 13TH PART V: A NEW BEGINNING (1985) and BLOOD AND LACE (1971). Indeed, Robinson brings to mind an even more demented Gloria Grahame from the latter film. Talking of which, Robinson steals the show as her mask of sanity slips towards violence and a rip-roaring, axe-swinging finale. She has her own sungenre pedigree having appeared in Fred Olen Ray's supernatural slasher SCALPS released back in 1983. With her character, the film cleverly shows the damage conversion therapy can have - albeit in a highly exaggerated fashion. A victim of it herself, Mary Esther has become so corrupted by her faith that she will stop at nothing to force others to find religion; even if that means resorting to multiple murder, penis corporal punishment and even cannibalism! The film best shows the perverting nature of religious mania when she interrogates a girl she is in the process of killing; asking her if she can hear the 'trumpets of Jesus' as the poor unfortunate teenager breathes her last breath (in a scene which brings to mind the extreme French horror movie MARTYRS (2008)). The film's central conceit is that those trying to convert the teens into being their fashion of normality are the most abnormal and perverted of all. Sadly, 'conversion therapy' centres still proliferate across the United States (and the practice is still currently legal in the UK) despite the evidence of the extreme harm it does. The film couldn't be more timely.
With a fraction of the budget, CHILDREN OF SIN more successfully covers the similar ground trod in THEY/THEM (also 2022). With each subsequent film, Moore becomes more self-assured and skilful as a film maker. He is definitely one of the most interesting and thought-provoking directors in low budget indie horror today. Yet he also understands what makes slasher movie tick and doesn't skimp on the red stuff or is afraid to go a little campy with his villain. He makes the most of a sometimes obviously meagre budget and the film is boosted by a great retro synth score by Luke Zwelsky. As with many lower budgeted indie horror movies, the acting can be variable - but is mostly good to competent here. Some scenes are shot so darkly it can be a little tricky to see what's going on, but that seems to be an artistic decision rather than due to budgetary constraints. Viewers may find the first half of the movie a slow burn, but should stick with it if they are after slasher thrills and lunacy as the movie builds to a blood-drenched finale clearly inspired by FRIDAY THE 13TH (1980) (complete with lakeside showdown). I'm looking forward to seeing what he does next.
female: 4 / male: 5
1) Female stabbed with butcher's knife
2) Female hacked with cleaver
3) Female hit over head with scissors
4) Male stabbed to death
5) Male whacked with axe
6) Male stabbed in the back
7) Female stabbed in back and neck
8) Male stabbed with scissors
9) Female hit on the head with stone crucifix
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