“Children of Sin” is the third micro-budget, self-distributed feature horror film from writer, director, actor and producer Christopher Wesley Moore.
He had trouble getting anyone to review his first two films, “Triggered” and “A Stranger Among the Living.” “Sin,” a lumbering, bloody, subtle-as-a-butcher knife splatter film, seems to explain why. Not quite amateurish, but clumsy and cumbersome and on-the-cusp-of-camp, there are good ideas lost in its tedious execution.
But if he’s looking for encouragement, let me just say I’ve seen worse.
An unhappy family strains under the dictatorial, fundamentalist rule of a domineering stepfather (Jeff Buchwald). Stepson Jackson (Lewis Hines) is accepting it, even if that means he had to stay in the closet a while longer. Half step-sister Emma (Meredith Mohler) is in open rebellion, and online looking up “How much is an abortion?”
Mom (Keni Bounds) is at her wit’s end, a woman with no marketable skills and a household that isn’t working out. There’s nothing for it but to put the kids in a Children of Abraham House. It’s a residential “rehab” for wayward teens, and it promises results in just three days.
Mary Esther (horror veteran Jo-Ann Robinson) runs the local “house” with an iron fist. Of course, “their headquarters are in Florida, where all the crazy s–t is,” one resident tells the kids when they’re checked in.
There are uniforms to wear, chores to carry out and “three strikes” allowed for breaking any of the rules there.
Jackson, guided by assistant counselor Hank (writer-director-producer Moore) and lorded over by Mary Esther, buys in. Emma, facing an unwanted pregnancy and an equally unwanted change in wardrobe, resists. And she hears things. Like this “three days” spiel is “what they tell everybody. It’s never three days.
“You never see anybody leave, either,” a long-timer tells her. “They just don’t show up for breakfast one day.”
There’s this locked room where disobedient kids are kept. With all this turnover, is there even anybody here who remembers someone actually coming out of solitary? As we get a peek at what Mary Esther does to teenagers in there, we have our answer. Torturous restraints, gags, and worse face the “laughing all the way to hell” crowd.
Most of the kids are just as cynical about this intervention as Emma, joking that the house’s proper name is “the home for unwed mothers and perverts.”
The treatments, for promiscuity and “the homosexual virus,” are laughable. Or almost laughable.
That’s because the rarely-scary picture dips towards camp but never goes whole hog. A couple of laughs through gritted teeth is about all Moore (no relation) manages.
The good idea here is exposing these sorts of scammy “treatment” centers and slapping them around a bit in a genre picture. Like pretty much every form of “rehab” in America, con artists, insurance skimmers and others have found a way to prey on the gullible and the vulnerable.
Yeah, you could make a half-decent slasher picture out of that setting. “Children of Sin” isn’t it.
Rating: unrated, graphic violence, sexual situations, profanity
Cast: Meredith Mohler, Jo-Ann Robinson, Lewis Hines, Jeff Buchwald, Keni Bounds and Christopher Wesley Moore.
Credits: Written and directed by Christopher Wesley Moore. A CWM Entertainment release.
Running time: 1:35