A movie review of “The Sisterhood of Night,” a compelling drama about teen girls accused of witchcraft. Rating: 3 stars out of 4.
If “The Crucible” took place today, the teen girls accused of witchcraft would be tried and convicted on social media long before they ever entered a courtroom. That’s the premise of Caryn Waechter’s “The Sisterhood of Night,” a compelling teen drama based on a Steven Millhauser short story from 1994, but clearly also indebted (and proudly so, to the extent of borrowing character names) to Arthur Miller’s classic play about the Salem witch trials.
Weaving together dramatic action, news-story re-enactments and social-media posts, Marilyn Fu’s screenplay lets us see how quickly a story rages out of control. Mary Warren (Georgie Henley, growing up quickly since her days as Lucy in the “Chronicles of Narnia” movies), a teen in contemporary upstate New York, has gathered together a small group of girls who scorn digital communication and instead meet in the woods, late at night. Emily Parris (Kara Hayward), initially dismissed by the film’s dry voice-over narration as “an only child with a blog that nobody reads,” gets wind of the secret society and exposes it — and suddenly, Emily’s blog explodes, as do the stories (“Girls Sex Cult!”) of what the girls are really doing in the woods.
Waechter moves things along smoothly, and teen girls in particular will likely get caught up in the story. Grown-ups will be more likely to notice the film’s low-budget origins (a few of the performances are fairly wooden), but will also be touched by its depiction of a certain vulnerable time in adolescence: Mary asking, wistfully, “Do you ever wish that you could just live inside a song?”; quiet Lavinia (Olivia De Jonge) looking, late in the film, sad and lost and heartbreakingly young. It’s not quite “The Crucible,” but this “Sisterhood” works, creating a bit of poignant witchcraft of its own.
Movie Review ★★★
‘The Sisterhood of Night,’ with Georgie Henley, Kara Hayward, Willa Cuthrell, Olivia De Jonge, Kal Penn, Laura Fraser. Directed by Caryn Waechter, from a screenplay by Marilyn Fu, based on a short story by Steven Millhauser. 102 minutes. Rated PG-13 for mature thematic content involving sexuality, prescription drugs, suicide, teen abuse and for some language. Alderwood Mall 16.