Cinema Review: The Sisterhood of Night | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
Saturday, March 6th, 2021  

The Sisterhood of Night

Studio: Freestyle Releasing
Directed by Caryn Waechter

Apr 10, 2015 Web Exclusive
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The waters of high school are often difficult to navigate at best, treacherous at worst. The pressures of social status, burgeoning sexuality, and academic success collude to form a Drake’s Passage, which can pose near insurmountable obstacles for the adolescents trying to make it through to graduation. In Caryn Waechter’s new film, The Sisterhood of Night, the tribulations of high school serve as the backdrop for a modern retelling of the Salem Witch Trials of early America.

Set in upstate New York and based on Steven Millhauser’s short story, Sisterhood tells the tale of a group of girls—led by doyenne Mary Warren (Georgie Henley)—whose intimate and clandestine clique (the eponymous sisterhood) is the envy of every girl in school. They congregate in the woods at night. No one is really sure what they do around their bonfire, and the speculative rumors fly rampantly through town. The sisterhood is harmless gossip fodder, until aspiring sister Emily Parris (Kara Hayward) follows the exclusive quintet into the forest at midnight and emerges spewing accusations of physical assault and sexual abuse. Proliferated and exacerbated by the instantaneous ubiquity of social media, countless classmates soon join in the fray, claiming similar violations perpetrated by Mary Warren and her compatriots. In little time, Emily Parris’ blog is a safe haven where young women all across the country can unburden themselves of the sexual assault secrets they’ve been harboring for years, and The Sisterhood is the epicenter of mass paranoia from parents, teachers, and students alike.

The Sisterhood of Night portrays the emotional swells of high school as well as any film about those four years could hope. That said, Waechter and screenwriter Marilyn Fu stretch themselves a little thin in their attempt to cover as many subjects as possible, which many high schoolers across the country face on a daily basis. In addition to the aforementioned sexual abuse and social strivings, they incorporate rumors of inappropriate relationships between students and faculty, binge drinking, sickly parents, single parents, and even make a weak attempt at tackling cyber bullying. There’s so much going on in the world of the Sisterhood, so much drama engendered by their nighttime rituals, the story starts to buckle under its own weight. The girls themselves, stubborn and as of yet unworldly teenagers, refuse to honor their best judgment, even when it would be so easy to dig themselves out of their ever-deepening holes, prolonging and aggravating their circumstances. With an obvious target demographic of pre- and early teenage girls, Sisterhood is a novel, modernized retelling of the Salem Witch frenzy and the perils of high school, though perhaps a bit too overburdened for its own good.

Author rating: 5/10

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