Sin Eater (2022) Is Empty of Horror But Full of Religious Trauma
Title: Sin Eater
First Non-Festival Release: March 15, 2022 (Digital/Streaming Platforms)
Director: Carmelo Chimera
Writer: Carmelo Chimera, Nicholas Chimera, Robert O’Neal
Runtime: 85 Minutes
Starring: Jessie Nerud, Danny Bohnen, Scotty Bohnen
Where to Watch: Check out where to find it here
One kind gesture to a hurt woman on the side of the road results in Christine (Jessie Nerud) surviving a horrific car accident. She awakens in Sherriff Isaac’s (Danny Bohnen) home with her jaw wired shut. The mild inconvenience is alleviated slightly by her nurse Elijah (Scotty Bohnen) giving her a text-to-speech device that allows her to communicate in a less painful manner. Christine’s dismay at needing to recovery is hastened by the increasingly strange behavior of her hosts, especially Abraham (Scott Moore), the town minister. The constant talk of religion brings up terrible memories of Christine’s abusive home growing up and gives her the feeling that something isn’t right about her hosts.
Bland demonic thrills offered in Sin Eater is comprised of empty calorie horror and small-town drama.
Christine’s character arc is a confusing one. Her main motivations are never fleshed out. Aside from being pretty, injured, and initially kind to every person she meets, little is revealed about her personality. Her entire life she has spent running from her parents, according to her brother, yet scenes of her religious abuse are intercut that clearly show her in the same stage of life as she is when recovering from the accident. Furthermore, the final revelation concerning Christine makes little sense, despite it simultaneously being a predictable choice for her character. Nothing in her development suggests what Sin Eater wraps up the story with concerning her. It feels more shoe-horned into the plot as a means to an end without actually thinking through the arc.
The entirety of the cast gives standard performances for this type of film. Overacting, odd character choices, and lengthened pauses add to the tedium. Jessie Nerud is given the daunting task of acting with a mouthpiece on for nearly the entire film. This severely damages her performance, as there is little she can do to adequately make it believable. While she does look suitably uncomfortable, as her character might be, it doesn’t translate well in the end.
Between predictable writing and low budget constraints, it’s easy to see why Sin Eater largely doesn’t work. Typically, at least one solid performance, scene, or idea can eclipse these issues. Unfortunately, Sin Eater lacks these. Any moment that has the potential to dive deeper into the material is abandoned for its silly final showdown. It’s more irritating when it deals with plot points that are seriously underdeveloped such as a concerned brother and night terrors that lead to sinister revelations.
Even as an indie film, the production quality makes it difficult to enjoy or take seriously. The sound mixing is distracting. Many of the scenes feel unnaturally loud or sharp which elicit an artificial feeling to the film in what otherwise should be a homey location, despite the horror of course. The pacing makes the film drag, as if stretching it to feature film length will make up for its rough script. Serious editing is needed to cut some scenes that linger unnecessarily long without revealing more of the plot or building the tension. It’s a deadly serious film opining on the power of religious fundamentalism and trauma without the energy to back it up.
Plenty of hurdles make it difficult to recommend Sin Eater. It’s central story lacks focus, tension, and dynamism. The decision to remain in one location for 90% of the film gives off this feeling of stasis that the film never overcomes. Unconvincing acting, poor dialogue, and languid pacing make Sin Eater a difficult watch for the seasoned cinephile and casual fan alike. Interesting ideas poke through the script now and again but are largely doused by the writing as soon as they spark. It’s recommended to avoid this flick unless you are thoroughly out of other options, otherwise feel free to sacrifice your time if it sounds intriguing enough.
Overall Score? 3/10