Caryn Waechter’s witch-hunt drama ventures outside of Salem and into a modern American high school. The bizarre film, based on Steven Millhauser’s short story Sisterhood, follows goth-like “Mary Warren” (Georgie Henley) as she unplugs from social media and discretely takes her posse take to the deep, dark woods of Kingston, NY. (BKP: 3/5)
When self-confident Mary feuds with her earnest, blogger nemesis “Emily” (Kara Hayward), she creates her own “media blackout.” Mary deletes her Facebook and every other social media platform. When you search her name, no results are found – and that’s the way she wants it. Instead of updating her status, Mary writes in her journal for the first time in ages and conjures up a crazy idea – she and her two friends, “Lavinia” (Olivia DeJonge) and “Catherine,” (Willa Cuthrell-Tuttleman) make their own “secret sisterhood.” As a commencement ceremony, the girls run into the woods to sing, chant, and dance to the beat of their own drums.
But soon enough, the fun ends and the three girls take a vow of silence as chaos in their high school, their families, and their hometown swirls around them. What are they doing in the woods? Is it a cult? Are they witches? The film switches back and forth between different points of view as it progresses, an element both jarring and confusing. By using the omniscient viewpoint, the film shows its dark world through multiple characters. Although devoting time to each character gives them a shred more depth, the film loses its center. Sure, you can piece elements together after its conclusion, but because the majority of the answers come in the film’s final act, certain intrigue and interest is lost. Other characters, such as high school guidance counselor “Gordy,” (Kal Penn) are introduced but have little to add to the fumbling plot.
The film could be viewed in two ways: literally or figuratively. If looked at literally, the script could be seen as very peculiar and touching on delicate subject matters like sexual assault, suicide, and even witchcraft. But if seen through a figuratively wider lens, profound messages shine through a sea of strange plotlines. The film tackles the issue of the modern, tech-saturated high school landscape. It takes the newly-coined term “FOMO” (Fear of Missing Out) and escalates the concept to a new level through the character of Emily, a girl so desperately wanting to join the sisterhood.
The Sisterhood of the Night accurately depicts the juxtaposition of people’s yearning to fit in and stand out at the same time. Using extremely gloomy and disturbing undertones, it shows teenagers’ relationships with their parents, teachers, and so-called “friends.” Each actress perfectly embodies their role and gives the film its disconcerting feel, particularly Georgie Henley (whose character is a far cry from her Narnia alter-ego Lucy Pevensie). Nonetheless, the lack of focus and misplaced plot-twists ultimately make the story feel as if it were better left on the page.
Review © Brigid K. Presecky (4/8/15)
Top Photo: Georgie Henley as group leader “Mary” and Willa Cuthrell-Tuttleman as friend “Catherine Huang”
Bottom Photo: Georgie Henley as group leader “Mary” with friends Olivia DeJonge as “Lavinia Hall” and Willa Cuthrell-Tuttleman as “Catherine Huang”
The entire film is based on the relationships (mainly) on four high school girls. They each deal with their own personal issues and only a small number of their conversations revolve around their respective love interests.