CHILDREN OF SIN movie poster | ©2022 CWM Entertainment

CHILDREN OF SIN movie poster | ©2022 CWM Entertainment

Rating: Not Rated
Stars: Meredith Mohler, Lewis Hines, Jo-Ann Robinson, Keni Bounds, Jeff Buchwald, Christopher Wesley Moore, Ana-Claire Henley, Cami Roebuck, Jacob Thomas, George Mayronne
Writer: Christopher Wesley Moore
Director: Christopher Wesley Moore
Distributor: CWM Entertainment
Release Date: April 22, 2022

CHILDREN OF SIN lives up to the ‘70s/’80s indie horror vibe suggested by the style of its poster. It’s got some good (if predictable) jump scares, at least one scene of profound weirdness, blunt statements, inexpensive production values, and a certain lack of plot logic.

However, it’s unlikely that, in the ‘70s or ‘80s, we’d see an indie horror (or any other kind of) film about the dangers of religious organizations that have specialized programs aimed at “converting” teens deemed to be “sinful.”

In the case of CHILDREN OF SIN, directed and written by Christopher Wesley Moore, the main targets are young women who have become pregnant, and young men who appear to be gay. When Tammy (Keni Bounds) moves in with religious husband-to-be Robbie (Jeff Buchwald), it doesn’t sit well with Tammy’s daughter Emma (Meredith Mohler). Tammy’s son Jackson (Lewis Hines), on the other hand, enjoys having a reliable dad – until Robbie catches Jackson watching gay male porn on the Internet.

Since Tammy has already seen Emma doing on online search for how to get an abortion (no prizes for guessing who the father is), both teens have earned the ire of their almost-stepfather. Tammy, saying they’ll all have to live beneath an overpass if she leaves Robbie now, begs Emma and Jackson to spend just three days at Abraham House, where religious values are supposed to turn their lives around. Then, Tammy promises, she’ll have gotten enough money together to make a new life for the three of them.

Abraham House is run by the sunny but stern Mary Esther (Jo-Ann Robinson), who gets uncommonly upset when she feels she is being defied. She is helped out by Hank (played by filmmaker Moore), who claims to be “cured” of being gay. There’s one other pregnant young woman, two lesbians, and another gay young man.

CHILDREN OF SIN has its heart in the right place, but it works better as retro horror than as social commentary. The film has one sequence that is impressively perverse, but otherwise, it lacks subtlety in its depiction of efforts to “pray the gay away.” For all this viewer knows, this may be a more or less accurate recreation of low-rent, poorly-thought-out attempts to bully people out of their sexuality, but it feels like there ought to be more to it.

It also sometimes lacks coherence. There are, broadly speaking, establishments like Abraham House all over the country, doing plenty of harm. However, we’re at a loss to understand how this specific Abraham House has managed to stay open for any length of time, given Mary Esther’s strong feelings about discipline.

There are some other problems as well, including the fact that neither Mohler nor Hines looks young enough to be a legal minor. Jackson is also scripted as oddly passive and oblivious to social cues. He changes course several times throughout the story with no buildup. Additionally, there’s a late-in-the-running plot twist that does not get anything like the set-up needed for us to comprehend what’s behind it.

All that said, CHILDREN OF SIN does have its moments. Robinson plays her cheery psycho with gusto. Moreover, the film has some potent imagery. The storytelling and casting may be awkward, but the sentiment driving everything feels sincere.

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