Movie Review

The Last Sin Eater

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for thematic elements, and some intense sequences of violence

Reviewed by: David Criswell, Ph.D.
CONTRIBUTOR

Better than Average
Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Adults, Teens
Genre:
Drama, Religion, Historical, Adaptation
Length:
_____
Year of Release:
2007
USA Release:
February 9, 2007
Copyright, 20th Century Fox Studios / Fox Faith Films
Copyright, 20th Century Fox Studios / Fox Faith Films
Copyright, 20th Century Fox Studios / Fox Faith Films
Copyright, 20th Century Fox Studios / Fox Faith Films
Copyright, 20th Century Fox Studios / Fox Faith Films
Copyright, 20th Century Fox Studios / Fox Faith Films
Copyright, 20th Century Fox Studios / Fox Faith Films
Relevant Issues
Copyright, 20th Century Fox Studios / Fox Faith Films
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Featuring: Henry Thomas, Liana Liberato, Peter Wingfield, Elizabeth Lackey
Director: Michael Landon, Jr.
Producer: Brian Bird, Robert Gros, Michael Landon, Jr.
Distributor: 20th Century Fox Studios / Fox Faith Films

“A little girl’s quest for redemption uncovers a dark secret… and the truth shall set her free.”

Michael Landon, the famed Jewish-Christian actor, died young, leaving behind a legacy of family TV. However, a man’s legacy is often determined not only by the material things he leaves behind but by the quality and character of the family he leaves behind.

Michael Landon Jr. has teamed up with Fox Faith films to bring “The Last Sin Eater” to the screen. The story is a take on the old pagan Celtic belief wherein a man takes the sins of the dead upon his own flesh during a ritual eating over the flesh of the deceased. Even after Wales became nominally Christian, the Welsh often incorporated the Sin Eater into their theology, creating a bizarre mixture of Christianity and paganism. In this film, a small Welsh-American community carries on that tradition, but a young girl, who is haunted by the death of her younger sister, becomes obsessed with having her sins removed. As a result she embarks, against the wishes of her family, on a quest to find the Sin Eater and have her sins removed.

Obviously, the movie offers a perfect chance to set the gospel against a pagan backdrop. The movie is itself filled with double entendres, including a reference to Caiaphas' accidental prophecy, 'it is better for one man to die than for many to suffer.' Unlike many Christian films of late, “The Last Sin Eater” is not afraid to preach the gospel. Now perhaps I have been sullied by years of movies which seemed afraid to even mention the name of Jesus (the movie “End of the Spear” is an example of a Christian film which lacks the name of the Lord), and some might say that “The Last Sin Eater” only briefly presents the gospel, but the gospel is there and lays underneath the entire plot.

Morally, there is some violence, including death, semi-rotting bodies, bones, a grisly image of a deformed and bloody face, some semi-brutal beatings (but not by today’s standards), and the slaughter of an Indian village is seen, but without blood shown. There is no language and no sex.

Cinematically, the movie is a promising start for Michael Landon Jr. There could be a few criticisms, but as he continues his career, I am sure his directing will become more polished. One problem was the depiction of the preacher. It seemed as if Landon was trying to make the preacher seem more of a prophet than a preacher. As a result, he seemed to lack the truly human feel. Even when he wasn’t preaching, he seemed to talk like a prophet of old. I felt that the preacher would actually have been more effective if he had been a little more human with more realistic dialogue. Another minor criticism includes the obvious special effects flaws at the log bridge. Despite this, and a few glitches along the way, Landon shows great promise in his directorial debut, and the film promises to elevate the sad state in which Christian films have too long been mired.

Ultimately, the film succeeds because it is told through the eyes of a child. The young heroine seeks out the Sin Eater that others live in fear of. It is the innocence of this child, obsessed with her sins, which makes the film believable. If the truth be told, I enjoyed the movie much more than I was anticipating. If you like drama, you will surely like “The Last Sin Eater.” It has elements of a horror film, but plays like a drama amid the backdrop of the Wild West and, more importantly, the gospel. Michael Landon would be proud.

Violence: Moderate / Profanity: None / Sex/Nudity: None

Here’s what the distributor says about their film: “When a mysterious man ‘absolves’ her grandmother’s sins by eating bread and wine at her grave, 10-year-old Cadi wants the same redemption—while she’s still alive! But in her quest for deliverance she uncovers a dark secret that threatens to divide her family. What will happen when the two face each other—and the One who can truly save them?

In 1850’s Appalachia, 10-year-old Cadi Forbes is wracked with guilt over the death of her sister. She feels responsible for the loss and sets out to find the only man, known as The Sin Eater, who can take away her guilt. But while seeking redemption, Cadi learns a devastating secret that has the potential to tear apart her family and community.

Based on the award winning novel by Francine Rivers.”

For more information, see the Official Web site

See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.


Viewer Comments
Positive
Positive—This movie is outstanding! No, it doesn’t speak of the Roman Road to salvation verbatim. No, you won’t see praise and worship on screen. No, you won’t experience things you might experience in church… However, this movie CLEARLY tells the viewer that Jesus Christ IS the sin eater, and that He paid the price for our sins so many years ago. The message is not blatant or shoved down the viewer’s throat. It is, however, full of God’s message of mercy, grace and forgiveness, seasoned with honey and with only the sweetness a merciful God can provide. The viewer is left with NO doubt about Jesus being the one who “takes away the sins of the world.”

This movie will appeal to believers and nonbelievers alike. This movie is a GREAT witnessing tool. I grow weary of believers who think that Jesus' name must be spoken in every other sentence in order for God’s work to go forth. We can hear God’s word in the silence as well as in the storm. The Holy Spirit can be loud or soft, depending upon His view of what’s necessary for conversion and repentance. AWESOME movie! It’s a keeper.

NOTE: Little ones might be a bit spooked. It is a bit dark in the beginning. After all, it is about old Celtic practices from Wales. Use discretion for those under 10.
My Ratings: Excellent! / 4½
—Marini Shull, age 49
Positive—This movie is great! Everyone struggles with that one thing that they carry guilt over and this movie really gives those people hope. It was beautifully filmed and the acting was fantastic. The scenery was beautiful and the characters were truly believable. It is a great movie to bring unsaved friends to or maybe even new believers. They really hit home the fact that only Jesus can take our sins away. Even better than that, they show in the story the miraculous peace of God that descends upon you when you turn it all over to Him. Definitely one we will buy to pass around to friends!

Probably not for younger kids, however, Jr. High kids might really get into it. The character of the Sin Eater is very intense and downright scary at times, so choose this one carefully if considering it for younger kids.
My Ratings: Better than Average / 4½
—Sarah Sola, age 34
Positive—This is an excellent film to bring unsaved friends and family. It’s a wonderful story of redemption and forgiveness. Some may say a 10 year old child (Cadi) would not have the insight to take this burden on, but this story says different. Her burden was made heavier by an unforgiving parent and led Cadi to take extreme measures to seek forgiveness, finally discovering the true “sin eater,” Jesus Christ. The acting was very good, especially in the children, with the star Liana Liberato (Cadi) playing a convincing role as someone seeking relief from her sins. Hollywood should take note that a film can be made so intriguing without any bad language or sexual content. It’s a movie my wife and I will own as soon as it’s released on DVD… it’s a keeper.
My Ratings: Excellent! / 4½
—Donald, age 51
Positive—…I just saw this movie. Now this is not the type of movie I would usually see. I am a Christian, and I did see some unique storyline to this movie via the trailer. I would recommend this movie when it comes out on DVD. It’s better than a made-for-cable movie, but not quite up to par with Hollywood. I think that this kind of movie shows a lot of promise though. I really liked the inventive storyline. Although there were some leaps of logic in the movie. A bit long (personal preference). For Christians this movie is a must see, although not immediately. For Secularits (non-Christians) it will appeal to you if you like “Anne of Green Gables” kind of movies. A solid C rating.
My Ratings: Good / 3
—Aaron Cavanaugh, age 29
Positive—I really liked this movie. It had beautiful scenery and a lovely plot. It is a very good family movie and a great presentation of the gospel. I liked the historical backdrop and the plot premise was interesting. The underlying idea of her dealing with guilt and sin, and Jesus being the One who could forgive her sin.
My Ratings: Excellent! / 4
—Angela, age 37
Positive—Absolutely go and see this movie! It tells a story that you will not soon forget. While the movie is not right up to top Hollywood standards, it is also not bad at all. In fact, the story is so good that you will not care about the few minor things that could have been done better. The music is wonderful, the photography is beautiful, and most of the acting is very good—especially by the young lady that plays Cadi. (We will probably be seeing more of her in the future.) You will walk away thanking God for His grace in your life. I really believe we should support these efforts to bring good Christian movies to the big screen. Not a movie for younger kids, as they may be confused or bothered by the sin eater and the eeriness of the ritual he performs. This is a dramatic film with much to talk about afterwards.
My Ratings: Excellent! / 3½
—Elaine B, age 48
Positive—The historical backdrop of this plot makes for a fascinating movie, and while it could have been better made in a number of ways, it is far superior to most “Christian” films currently available. Contrary to the reviewer’s well-intentioned comments, this is not Michael Landon Jr.'s directorial debut. In addition to “The Last Sin Eater,” Landon Jr. has directed a total of 8 films to date, two of which will be released later this year. Additionally, has produced 5 films, and written 8. Besides the bitter, auto-biographical television film he made in 1999 about growing up with his father, he has also teamed up with Hallmark over the past 5 years in directing screen adaptations of a series of Janette Oke novels, some of which were released in mainstream theatres across the country, the best of which being “Love Comes Softly,” which I highly recommend. Whatever differences the two men had during Landon Sr.'s lifetime, the young Landon has definitely picked up the torch and continued his father’s tradition of creating family-friendly entertainment.
My Ratings: Excellent! / 3
Lacey Mical (Callahan) Walker, age 25
Positive—The only technical flaws I saw in this movie were those mentioned in the review—the preacher seemed overly stereotyped and the scene at the log bridge was too obviously a set; both minor flaws at that. The cinematography was excellent, the acting was very authentic and the production quality (use of music, sound efects, etc.) was very effective. I also loved how the Gospel comes through more as a “redemptive analogy,” reminiscent of the type of phenomena written about by Don Richardson in books like The Peace Child, wherein pagan traditions become bridges for communicating the Gospel. As the review mentioned, there are some scenes that feel almost like a horror movie, so this is not for young children. Very well done and worth the money to rent and buy.
My Ratings: Good / 4½
—Jon Whitmer, age 37
Neutral
Neutral—I had my hopes set really high on this one. It was such a great idea for a movie as a witnessing tool and the previews looked fantastic. With all of the “faith based” movies that have been coming out I was really hoping that this one would not hold back from the Truth of Christ and just put a clear message for us as to who Christ is, and what He did for us. If you are expecting all of the above from this movie set yourself up for disappointment now. Jesus Christ was mentioned maybe twice and there was no attempt to lead the audience towards the plan of salvation (and this from a movie about a girl searching for salvation from her sins). I was really disappointed, but seeing the times in which we live and how watered down Christ can be (especially to Christians) I should not be too surprised. What a wasted opportunity.
My Ratings: Good / 3½
—Carey C., age 33
Negative
Negative—This was a very odd movie. What a huge let down! Before I rented it I read the reviews of other people. I thought it would be a wonderful movie to show in youth classes. But, instead, it was creepy and very confusing! The whole movie was very dark and cultish. I certainly would not show this to an unsaved person. It would just confuse them. If you’re planning on seeing this movie, don’t waste your time. If you’re wanting to watch a “Christian” movie, a good one to watch would be “Facing the Giants.”
My Ratings: Average / 3
—Peggy Jones, age 43
Comments from young people
Positive—I just got back from seeing this movie with some of my friends and I must say it is, I think, the best Christian movie I have seen (yes, I have seen “Facing the Giants” another great Cristian movie). The plot line was good and the message was great. I do think though it wouldn’t be good for young or middle aged kids, because it is fairly scary for about the first hour. Overall, it was a great movie.
My Ratings: Better than Average / 4
—Austin Beeler, age 15
Positive—This movie was excellent! The way the girl seeks to get her sins forgiven speaks to me, but when the stranger frees her sins by Jesus Christ, she feels forgiven in its entirety and feels “it doesn’t hurt anymore” as she exclaims to one of her friends. This movie spoke to me in a way no movie ever has. I suggest this movie to anyone and everyone of all ages.
My Ratings: Good / 5
—Abby, age 13
Neutral—I enjoyed this movie very much; however I would not recommend this movie for children under the age of 12. There was some “scary” parts in it, but it still had a beautiful story line and expressed Jesus' love and redemption through the story.
My Ratings: Excellent! / 4½
—Brianna, age 16