Starring Georgie Henley, Kara Hayward, Willa Cuthrell-Tuttleman
Directed by Caryn Waechter
First looks aren’t necessarily all they’re cracked up to be – you can be completely swept aside with feelings for a film before you even lay eyes upon it, and when it turns your thinking in the opposite direction once you’ve completed watching it, I’d definitely say that it’s done its job when it comes to derailing your mindset.
The Sisterhood of Night, from director Caryn Waechter (in her first feature film directorial-spin), takes a myriad of issues that are plaguing the adolescent platforms, such as bullying, sexual promiscuity, and internet prowling, balls them up, and wraps a bow tie of cultish activity around them.
Filmed (and set) in Kingston, New York, the movie takes the audience directly into a high school where a small group of young ladies are participating in more than just the current set of academic guidelines. Led by the innocent (sarcasm) eyes of Mary Warren (Henley in a tremendous performance), and followed by her hallway cohorts, Catherine Huang (Tuttleman) and Lavinia Hall (Olivia DeJonge) – the three are powerful in one aspect, and that’s in the way their classmates fear their every move, mainly due to the word that all three are secretly conjoined in cult-like activity, after dark and in the secrecy of the nearby woods.
On the flipside, each respective teen has her own issues away from the school, from a terminally-ill mother to a mother who is seriously lacking in parenting skills and right down to a case of “you’ll never be good enough to succeed.” These are the boundaries that hang heavy over the group of three, and therefore the Sisterhood is born.
They all remain steadfast in silence regarding their actions, but with the ever-growing advent of social media invasiveness, it’s not long before the girls are labeled cult-like and devil worshipers: a most serious accusation among the proud churchgoing populous. Things really heat up when one student (Hayward as Emily Parris) comes forward to spill the beans on one night when she was sexually abused by the girls while spying on them in the forest. Her claims are immediately brought to light, an investigation into the Sisterhood is under way, and even high school counselor Gordy Gambhir (Kal Penn) can’t seem to drag any useful information out of the girls.
Emily takes on the role of “digital savior” to thousands of sexual abuse survivors who flock to her online blog to share their stories, furthering a damning pseudo-trial against the supposed band of “witches.” Are these girls deviants at heart, or is there a much bigger problem at hand that makes them seek the solace and tranquility of the woods? I’ll admit that this one kind of threw me for a loop… and I’m a big guy, so it would take a weighty toss, indeed.
Backed by an amazingly strong Kickstarter campaign that ran a mere 36 days, the movie was shot with the look and feel of a big-budget production, and it delivers a strong punch to the gut that will wake up people who think that teens in trouble are merely acting out – these are different times indeed than the ones that the majority of us grew up in. There are many ways of contending with issues such as the ones detailed in this film, and the display goes much, much further than the “Satanist” aspect. All the performances are spot-on, with Henley leading the pack – her eyes tell the story, and she uses them to convey fear, anger, and most importantly, innocence lost. Despite the slow pacing of the presentation, it shouldn’t be looked at as a negative: It sets the story up and aids in the interpretation of the end product.
Overall, The Sisterhood of Night is a film that might look as if it should be marketed towards the young female set, but with undertones of The Craft deeply seated within, it most certainly can be viewed by anyone, especially those who are looking for a solemn peek into the social issues of today’s children.