The New York Times review of ‘The Sisterhood of Night’

The New York Times Review for ‘The Sisterhood of Night’

The Sisterhood of Night
by KEN JAWOROWSKI on 4/9/2015

Early on, “The Sisterhood of Night” feels so familiar that it’s quite a feat when the film turns out to be this tense. Even with sections recalling both “The Crucible” and an “Afterschool Special,” it still fashions a story that’s fairly fresh and often absorbing.

The plot begins at a high school in Kingston, N.Y., where three students, Mary (Georgie Henley), Catherine (Willa Cuthrell) and Lavinia (Olivia De Jonge), form an invitation-only clique that meets in the woods after dark.

Emily (Kara Hayward), a classmate, is denied membership, and her jealousy, combined with questions about the group — What exactly are those girls doing when they go into the forest? — incite gossip that spreads with a vengeance when social media and cellphone photos are added to the mix.

Soon a mania grips the town, fueled by rumors of sexual abuse and satanic rituals. Rational voices are ignored and personal vendettas come into play, leading to a conclusion that twists as it reveals bits of scenes that had been withheld.

Caryn Waechter, the director, is impressive here in her first feature. She and her young cast practice understatement rather than exaggeration, often choosing sideways glances over screaming matches, and are more effective for it. Kal Penn, as a guidance counselor, supplies the welcome levity.

Though the script, by Marilyn Fu from a story by Steven Millhauser, may have benefited by closing on a darker note (one sadly beautiful late scene with Ms. Cuthrell seems ideal for that), “The Sisterhood of Night” remains a considerably taut tale. Yes, you’ve seen some of this before. And here, they’ve made it worth seeing again.

“The Sisterhood of Night” is rated PG-13 (Parents strongly cautioned). These teenagers test out adult-size issues, including sex and suicide.

“The Sisterhood of Night”

MPAA rating: PG-13.

“The Sisterhood of Night” The New York Times