Part Easy A (without the laughs), part The Crucible, and part Gossip, this teen drama is a film full of interesting moments and ideas. It just ever really comes together to make a completely satisfying piece of work, sadly.
Georgie Henley and Kara Hayward play Mary and Emily, respectively, two schoolgirls who end up engaging in a bit of a feud. Emily uses her online blog as a weapon, while Mary comes up with another unexpected way to put herself in position as victor. She decides to start up The Sisterhood Of Night, a secret club that you can only be a part of if given an invite. It’s all harmless, despite the fact that the girls involved try to make it seem edgier and spookier. Frustrated by her inability to gain an invite, Emily accuses the sisterhood of molesting her. And everything spirals from there before you can say “Satanist Sex Cult”.
Writer Marilyn Fu, developing a short story by Steven Millhauser, seems to be unsure of just how this material should be treated. If only she had made up her mind then the film would have been much better for it. As it is, we have moments of darkness without it ever getting too dark, occasional laughs without it ever getting too funny, and some interesting commentary that crops up and then disappears before any main point is made.
Director Caryn Waechter follows the script without putting any other stamp on it, leaving it in the limbo that renders it far less effective and entertaining. I even spent much of one of the later scenes wondering if Waechter had a background in soda commercials, because one moment felt as if it was directly lifted from some twee cola campaign.
As if subconsciously slotting in with the muddled nature of the material, the cast ends up being a very mixed bag. The adults fare better, with Kal Penn clearly enjoying himself in arguably the best role in the film. As for the sisterhood itself, or those wanting to be a part of it, Henley isn’t quite as convincing in her role, which makes the clumsy exposition of how the group came about that little bit less believable. Willa Cuthrell and Olivia DeJonge both do better, mainly because they’re portraying followers as opposed to a supposed leader, and the latter does well at exuding a sadness and vulnerability that can quickly be sensed as pathetic by her peers. In the role of villain, Hayward is very good. It’s not the most nuanced performance, but her best work happens when you see her reacting to the events around her by calculating just how much it is affecting her online value.
It’s a real shame that this movie lets itself, and hence the viewers, down. I didn’t hate it, and I was never bored, but the increasing sense of disappointment as unfocused scene followed unfocused scene inevitably led to me feeling disappointed more than anything else as I left the cinema. And that’s not what you want.
The Sisterhood Of Night is screening at EIFF 2015 on 24th and 27th June
DIRECTOR: CARYN WAECHTER
WRITER: MARILYN FU, BASED ON THE SHORT STORY BY STEVEN MILLHAUSER
STARS: GEORGIE HENLEY, KARA HAYWARD, WILLA CUTHRELL, OLIVIA DEJONGE, KAL PENN
RUNTIME: 104 MINS APPROX