Despite budgetary constraints, Christopher Wesley Moore’s Children Of Sin (2022) successfully evokes the milieu of an eighties slasher while also managing to be a scathing commentary on conversion therapy and American right-wing Christianity. The generational clash between the teenaged protagonists and the zealous adults could easily be construed as a thinly veiled allegory for the Republican Party’s war on woke culture. With conservative southern states restricting the liberties of LGBTQ+ persons, Children Of Sin could not feel more relevant.
When Emma (Meredith Mohler) becomes pregnant with her abusive step-father’s child and her brother Jackson (Lewis Hines) is outed as gay their parents ship them off to Abraham House to be “cleansed”. There they become the victims of the maniacally religious Mary Esther’s (Jo-Ann Robinson) psychosexual mind games. But as teenaged residents begin to disappear, Emma and Jackson begin to fear for their lives.
Children Of Sin lives comfortably between the aesthetics of Friday The 13th (1980) and the politically motivated storytelling techniques of Jordan Peele. Moore even outdoes Peele by making a film that succeeds in communicating its political message without becoming overtly preachy. The politics of Children Of Sin are neatly tucked away into the spectacles associated with the genre. There has been, after all, a long standing tradition in horror films of serial killers whose motivation originated in a guilt brought on by Christian beliefs. What Moore does is take this tradition to an extreme that mirrors the real world rhetoric of the political rightwing.
The violence, gore and various other genre trappings in Children Of Sin are highly affecting but it is the reminder that such places as Abraham House exist that is truly disturbing. Obviously most people who run such organizations aren’t axe wielding psychotics, but they do propagate a belief system that is detrimental to human happiness and identity. It is for no other reason that Children Of Sin is the most urgent and necessary horror film of the year.