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Wages Of Sin
cast: Ashlie Victoria Clark, Lauren Zelman, Brandon Michael, Prentice Reedy, and Billy St John

director: Aaron Joseph Robson

93 minutes (n/r) 2007
widescreen ratio 2.35:1
Echo Bridge NTSC DVD Region 1 retail

RATING: 1/10
reviewed by Michael Bunning
There are plenty of things that can ruin a film: bad acting, bad direction, bad script, bad effects, and so on. None of these things ruin Wages Of Sin, though it suffers from all of them in abundance. What does ruin the film, what destroys it utterly and completely is its appalling lack of imagination and the absence of any vestige of originality. Even clichéd films can be great, provided they use their unoriginality well, tipping the odd knowing wink or apologetic shrug to the audience. This one, though, treats the viewer with utter contempt: assuming that people living in such a media-saturated society will sit still for this appalling hokum.

Sue, a "beautiful college graduate" (as Echo Bridge's website describes her) is adopted and can't remember anything about her past - she doesn't know where she came from or who her biological family is. Clumsy exposition informs us that suddenly, from out of nowhere, a lawyer appears on Sue's doorstep, telling her that she's just inherited a spooky old house way out in the woods. Apparently Sue doesn't bother asking the lawyer any of the questions that come to mind (how did you find me? Who are my biological family? Do I have any relatives?), and instead organises a trip to her newly acquired property, taking her boyfriend and two other friends along.

Sure enough, the house contains an evil spirit: Sue's grandfather. One of the two body-count friends Sue drags along on this doomed jaunt cuts his wrist while exploring the basement, and when he and the other walking corpse construct a Ouija board, grandpa's ghost enters the cut and possesses the poor chap. While he starts acting squirrelly, Sue's busily arguing with her boyfriend, telling him she's pregnant, and having 'terrifying' visions that leave her remarkably unfazed.

The lawyer appears again, briefly, in order to have Sue sign a clipboard for no good reason and disappear off into the woods so that grandpa-boy can somehow bludgeon him to death without ever leaving the house. The plot continues in this utterly atrocious way, but it's not worth outlining: if you're unfortunate enough to come across a copy of Wages Of Sin, you'll have turned it off about 20 minutes in. If you do hate yourself enough to watch it all, you'll find that the only scary thing about the film is how consistently it fails to impress.

As with all genres, low budget horror (and this is very low) has its own conventions. The low budget horror film can't give the audience high-grade special effects, so instead offers over the top, campy and consciously bad special effects, usually heavy on the gore. The budget probably won't stretch to particularly good actors, so instead the nubile leads take every opportunity to strip down to their underwear or less. The limitations of filming with few funds and little equipment rule out slick and stylish camerawork or impressive sets, so instead the audience get inventive storytelling: the clever way the filmmakers overcome the constraints imposed on them (Blair Witch Project's handheld documentary styling, for example). And through it all, there shines brightly the passion of the cast and crew for their craft.

Here though, there's none of that. No gore. No flesh. No cleverness. Even the 'unrated' rating isn't what it seems: none of your 'too gory/ sexy/ outrageous for cinemas!' marketing here: it's unrated because it hasn't been submitted for a rating. If it had, it would receive a 12 or less. Wages Of Sin even manages to steal the axe-through-the-door scene from The Shining and turn it into a tensionless reminder of just how much better horror films can be.

The review disc itself is appalling too. No extras at all, the print quality is atrocious, and the even the menus are amateurish: there's only the one button - 'play' - and the user can still press up, down, left or right on their remote to deselect it. Wages Of Sin is so bad; it's nothing less than a miracle that anyone picked it up for distribution. Echo Bridge either didn't watch it before buying it, or are hell-bent on losing money. Avoid.
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