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"Bad" Horror Movies: Wages of Sin

Updated on March 10, 2013
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Brief Synopsis

Sue Walker, a recent college graduate, inherits a house in the country from her biological family. Her memories of her childhood are repressed, so she remembers nothing of the terrible things that went on in that house. She and her three friends go there for a weekend getaway; instead of having a great, relaxing time, they are tormented by the demonic spirit of a twisted preacher who used to live there. When they try to escape, they find that they cannot get away from the house, and the terror continues.

If this sounds like a movie you'd like to watch, stop reading now and go watch it, as the rest of this review will undoubtedly contain spoiler material.

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Ideas You May Have Seen Before

I think one of the most difficult genres to have a successful movie in is the horror genre, as there is so much that has already been done already. A filmmaker, in most cases, cannot avoid repeating at least one or two of the old tropes found in other similar movies. Unfortunately, in this film's case, there is a substantial amount of familiar cliches that are present within the narrative. First, the entire premise of the movie is familiar to most movie-going audiences: four young adults go to a house to spend the night and the house ends up haunted. Nothing new about that, but you can hardly escape from such a widely used idea as that. Along with the overarching plot being a tad overdone, there are also elaborate dream sequences/hallucinations, creepy children in white, Ouija board seances, demonic possession, a romantically smitten couple, a pot-smoker character, a blood-soaked ghost in the shower, levitation, and repressed memories. There's a large amount of detail that seems to have been plucked directly from Children of the Corn, such as the music, which has that creepy child-like voice singing in a minor key. Also, like in Children of the Corn, the characters turn on the radio only to hear a threatening sermon which they cannot change, no matter what station the radio is on.

Wages of Sin Trailer

Unique Twists on Old Concepts

Although there is the stereotypical good-hearted stoner character, there is not the Virgin character who thwarts the evil and lives to see another day at the end. It is implied that all the characters are sexually active, and that they are looking forward to the fornicating that will occur that evening. And although the premise of the movie is cliched with the idea of a house being demonically possessed, what does the viewer do when the house is haunted by a demonic Christian? How do you exorcise a house that thrives on Jesus and the Bible? This is an interesting twist on an old plot line, a twist that makes the viewer think hard about the consequences of such a situation.

There are, of course, old tropes that are pulled off particularly well so that they do not seem old at all. At one poignant moment between Sue and her boyfriend, the record player (which is not plugged in) starts playing a sped-up version of a hymn. Despite the fact that it has been done before, the tension and the release of the scene make it appear as if it is a new concept altogether.

Strengths

There's nothing worse than a horror movie that takes itself too seriously, and thankfully, this film does the opposite. It is a very self-aware narrative, an attribute which shines through in many of the camera tricks and special effects. The filmmakers know they are making a horror movie and they know that the viewer knows it's a horror movie. This makes the experience altogether more enjoyable, as it gives the viewer license to laugh at the parts he or she does not find to be scary.

The pacing of the plot is, overall, good and consistent, and the characters are likable, despite the poor acting. The most likable of the characters is hands down Taylor, the golden-haired, chisel-cheeked pothead. There is great chemistry between Sue and Ron, and the acting of the Preacher, in comparison to the rest of the cast, is creepy, understated, and excellent.

There are a few genuinely scary scenes in the movie, despite its shortcomings. There is a dream sequence where Taylor is being crucified; the scene turns out to be actually very eerie. It is also creepy when the friends try to drive away from the house but keep ending up back where they began. Although this, too, has been done before, the tension of the narrative helps to make this a truly terrifying obstacle.

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Weaknesses

Although I'm biased in that I love terrible horror movies, I have to admit that this is not a good film at all. The main reason that it falls flat is because it endeavors to take on too much all at once and on a limited budget. The story cannot be done justice in a limited time frame, either, so the movie loses it's spark as soon as it has reached the midpoint. It loses it's restraint and begins to snowball towards the end, picking up more and more details as it goes along at a breakneck pace.

Sue recovers her repressed memories in that the preacher is her crazy, cannibalistic grandfather who killed her mother and the twin she didn't remember she had, put them in the freezer, and ate them methodically for dinner every night. The ghost of the little girl, in a dream sequence, shows her a gravemarker with her name on it, there's a forced abortion dream sequence, the grandfather's body is found crucified in the attic, Taylor is killed by both Sue and Ron, Ron dies randomly in a burst of blood, and the movie ends with pregnant Sue waking up from a coma only to discover the preacher is her doctor. There's altogether too many variables in this plot. Each one is not attacked thoroughly enough to warrant a good story. Instead, the viewer is left tired and confused at the end of the film.

Plotwise, there are many inconsistencies: sometimes, only Sue can see the hallucinations/ghostly presences, but other times, everyone can see them. This greatly affects the mood and tone of the narrative, and it's unfortunate that it can't seem to make up its mind. Also, the terror fluctuates from being an interior threat within the house to being an exterior threat outside in the woods. Where is the terror located? Where should the audience direct their fear? This is a huge misstep in the making of the film.

There's scary music when it's not warranted, and it makes it obvious that something bad or menacing is about to occur, which eliminates the tension that should have been created by the acting, which is too frantic in parts and too wooden in others. The actors, for the most part, sound as if they are reciting directly from the script. When the actors are possessed, the make up is overdone and fake looking; it overshadows the effect which should have been made by the acting. There are some cheap camera affects meant to demonstrate drama and suspense, such as alternating close-ups in tense dialogue. There's also a lack of consistency with the props and shots, such as when Jane is tidying up after dinner, the plates of food appear as full as they were at the beginning of the meal.


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Parting Thoughts and Scorecard

As I love terrible B horror movies, I thought this was wildly entertaining. I recommend it to those who share a similar mindset, but those looking for a legitimately good film: stay away! The story, although convoluted, is interesting enough to hold a viewer's attention, the characters are likable, and the special effects aren't bad. On the Bad Horror Movie Scale, I'd give it a 6 out of 10.

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