Directed by: Michael Landon Jr.
Starring: Liana Liberato, Soren Fulton, Peter Wingfield, Louise Fletcher, Henry Thomas
If you go to the official Web site of FoxFaith, the distribution label created by Twentieth Century Fox to release Christian-themed films, you will see that they describe their releases as “family friendly, morally-driven programming.” With its current release, The Last Sin Eater, as well as other FoxFaith films, like last year’s Love’s Abiding Joy and One Night With the King, I suppose they could also add “poorly acted, boring, heavy-handed and bottom of the barrel” to their list of prerequisites.
The entire FoxFaith endeavor reeks of attempting to make a quick buck off Christians, simply by trying to con them into watching movies with, as they put it, “overt Christian content or … derived from the work of a Christian author.” While there’s nothing wrong with having Christian-themed films, when the end result is a bunch of poorly made theatrical releases that look for all the world like TV movies, then there is a problem. One must assume that Fox’s idea is that Christians don’t need quality as long as the Christian message is there.
Accordingly, the The Last Sin Eater is second-rate in every conceivable fashion, but has the message (and in case you can’t figure it out, the movie smacks you in the face with it in the last 15 minutes). The story follows a young girl named Cadi (TV actress Liana Liberato), who lives with a community of Welsh immigrants in Appalachia during the mid-1800s. When Cadi’s grandmother dies, the community calls in the village “Sin Eater” (Peter Wingfield, Catwoman), a man who eats food off the dead person in an attempt to consume that person’s sins—an old, traditional Welsh practice. As it turns out, Cadi has some guilt over her involvement in her younger sister’s death, so later decides to track down the Sin Eater in order to redeem herself. The only problem is that the Sin Eater hides away in the mountains since he is treated as an outcast.
As the film is faith-based and begins with the absolving of sins through archaic, pagan rituals, you can probably get a good idea of where the film is headed. (If you can’t, there are any number of bumper stickers or church marquees that can clue you in.) The real problem is that the film takes two hours to get to its ham-fisted conclusion, when most of the audience probably knew where it was headed before they even got to the theater.
And that’s not the worst of it. The entire cast runs around with horrible Welsh accents (apparently the Welsh emphasize every other word in a sentence). Not only is the acting amateurish, the movie looks cheap (there’s some of the most horrible green-screen work ever committed to film). When the film reaches its “shocking” climax—which involves the entire community’s collective guilt over an Indian massacre (as a side note, no one bothered to realize that tepees weren’t used by Native Americans living in Appalachia)—it’s neither all that shocking, nor climactic. The plot itself is riddled with absurdities and holes, like why the supposedly outcast and sequestered Sin Eater is neatly groomed. But all of these faults simply seem like drops in a bucket for a film that can’t appear to do anything right. Rated PG-13 for thematic elements and some intense sequences of violence.