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DVD Review: Sin By Murder

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On the evening of their tenth wedding anniversary, lawyer Michael Barnes’ (Tim Ross) wife, Michelle (Rachelle Williams) is brutally murdered in the shower. Detectives Jack Burns (Mark Baranowski) and Amy Cobb (Ryli Morgan) think it’s a matter of open and shut with Michael as the main suspect in the slaying. Especially since he left his wife to go bed his mistress, Sharon Sloane (Jyllyan Dixon). Coincidentally, Sharon is married to Michael’s boss, Lee Sloan (Michael Hicks).

On the surface, Sin By Murder comes across as one of the thousands of erotic thrillers that were spawned by the success of Fatal Attraction. It embraces the formula; deceit, lots of erotic sex and some murder to keep things spicy. But, Sin By Murder goes the extra mile and makes itself one of those films that gets under your skin long after you have watched it.

The blame for this would have to be laid directly at the husband and wife filmmaking team of Mark Baranowski and Ryli Morgan. Mark and Ryli have been making films in their home state of North Carolina for quite some time and they have a unique take no matter what genre they choose to embrace.

With Sin By Murder they take the erotic thriller and set it on its ear. Their performances as the Detective team of Jack Burns and Amy Cobb is nothing short of miraculous. They come across so believable that you would swear that when the movie was over they went back to their jobs as police detectives. And the chemistry isn’t one of husband and wife, but partners. Partners who have been doing this for quite some time.

Jyllyan Dixon as the voracious Mrs. Sloane is amazing to watch. She exudes such a raw sexuality that it almost makes you uncomfortable to watch. And then you realize that it’s because Mrs. Sloane is one crazy bitch. It’s been quite some time since I’ve seen someone pull this trick off with such ease.

The entire cast brings something to the table, making the film a truly unique experience. Even parts that would be considered throwaway parts in a bigger budget film are gems in their own right. Rachelle Williams as the doomed wife of Michael Barnes gives a slow, steamy seductiveness to the part and her death scene has her display such a look of true despair that it pulls at your heart strings.

And now for the amazing part —

Mark Baranowski made this film for four hundred dollars! Sin By Murder is as polished as anything you would see on Cinemax. The cast is beautiful; the locations are perfect for every scene the camerawork is crisp and clean. There are amusing things to watch for that reveals the budget of the film, however. When Michael is forced to take a lie detector test there is no actual equipment in the room. Through a series of tracking shots we get the whole feeling of a standard question and answer session, but without any of the apparatus. Director Baranowski makes sure to load the deck in his favor by having the person giving the polygraph be a stunning brunette (Jennifer Calhoun). With her in the room you could care less if there is a polygraph machine anywhere in the vicinity.

A neat little nudge comes in the form of a newspaper that Amy (Ryli Morgan) is holding up while she is talking to Jack (Mark Baranowski). It has an article about a film making couple that can only be Mark and Ryli. Very clever piece of trivia for the sharp eyed viewer. In the end Sin By Murder is a perfect example of what an erotic thriller should be. It should be something original and interesting while staying within the confines of its genre. Baranowski manages to do that with ease.

The DVD picture is crisp and clean. There are some amusing out-takes included on the disc as well as a slideshow and a trailer for another of their films; Runaway Terror, a truly original slasher film.

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