Writing for the Chicago Tribune, reviewer Louis R. Carlozo wrote that The Last Sin Eater fails because it tries to force "the round peg of evangelism into the square hole of creative excellence." However, the two aren't mutually exclusive. Michael Landon Jr. simply comes up a bit short on his attempt to mix faith and cinema.
It's not a heavy-handed message that mars Landon's film. Instead, it's the clumsy plot and cheap effects. Rated PG-13 for some brief scenes of intense violence, The Last Sin Eater portrays life in a rural Appalachian mountain village where Welsh immigrants still apply ritualistic customs. Enter the sin eater, a village outsider who presides over dead bodies and ceremonially takes on their sins by eating food sacrifices so the deceased can be spared judgment by God.
A 10-year-old girl named Cadi Forbes (Liana Liberato) takes an intense interest in the cove's sin eater when she reckons the sin eater can take away an intense guilt she feels for her younger sister's death. Along the way, Cadi meets a superfluous little girl angel (or not) and teams up with a slightly older boy (Soren Fulton) to find the reclusive sin eater. Ultimately the sin eating custom fails to absolve her guilt. But learning about the original sin eater, Jesus, does.
Films made in the past decade rarely struggle with effects. But The Last Sin Eater's special effects make the film look like an old Lifetime TV special. One scene featuring Cadi struggling to cross a log bridge makes viewers worry that if she falls, she'll tumble through the bluescreen, not a raging river. It's hard to imagine The Last Sin Eater's filmmakers really needed to soil their film with such a poorly shot scene. But there's no hiding its cheapness on the big screen.