Thursday, July 12, 2012

Secrets of the Sisterhood – review

Director: Kalila Katheriana Smith

Release date: 2005

Contains spoilers

One of the great things about modern technology is that anyone can turn their hand to film making – if they can work with a micro-budget. One of the God awful things about modern technology is also that anyone can turn their hand to film making – if they can work with a micro-budget. I have seen micro-budget films that contain slivers of sublime motion picture moments and others with ne’r a redeeming quality. I have also seen films that contain a bit of both.

Secrets of the Sisterhood comes across, to me at least, as a labour of love from director Kalila Katheriana Smith and there are some excellent moments within the film. There are also moments that are a tad clichéd and some poor dialogue and delivery thereof. But such is the joy of exploring indie films, wading through issues that, in high budget affairs, would be unforgivable – yet are completely understandable – to find gems. If gems are there then it is worth the effort.

Price in the woods
The film begins with a whisper, “we’re everywhere”, the sound of insects in the night and a drum beat. It opens so well and the soundtrack, generally, was one area where the film touched brilliance for a moment pulling me out of the film to think how well done it was in places. Headlights flash and a man drives home – lamenting the coffee he drank he pulls over for a wee. In the woods he sees a woman who beckons, leads him deeper into the trees and shows her boobs as an encouragement… The man, having never seen a horror film, follows her until he is chopped down by a large man, wearing a sack on his head and wielding a machete.

Hillary Lussen as Lita
The man, we discover later, is called Price (Calvin Brasely). He is a large man, wears a sack (as I mentioned) and we see he has a bit of a fang going on. He works for the vampires (who are all women – hence the title) and disposes of the dead, feasting on their flesh. That is all we really know and that is a shame as the film’s homepage has a brief bit of Price's background, beyond the film's exposition, that was really interesting.

Chideha Warner as Elvis Johnson
The film itself follows a group of female vampires, led by Lita (Hillary Lussen), who work out of a strip joint luring men back to a abandoned plantation house. After a couple of guys go missing cops Elvis Johnson (Chideha Warner) and Mike Tully (Jude Cambise) end up on the trail. They are aided by fellow cop (and Tully's lover) Christine Spade (Pamela Lucas) who goes undercover and ends up being seduced into the sisterhood – pulled between duty and her new vampiric urges. Also involved is Liz (Naomi Rieger), the girlfriend of one of the missing (eaten) guys.

Liz doesn’t get much screen time, just as well as Rieger's performance is poor. There is a vampire hunter (Randy Austin) who is barely in the film at all – character-wise a shame as he may have been intriguing, though I wasn’t sold on the casting. If the dialogue was hokey in places – Liz’s brother’s dialogue was actually painful – and the general scenario (vampires in a strip joint) clichéd, some of the visuals were very well done. The fact that perhaps the film seemed a little washed out made them even more astounding. Smith has an eye for the visual, not necessarily with standard shot composition, as such, but around the artistic effects. EDIT 23/7/12 I received an email suggesting that the post-production effects and music were all added by Jamal Morelli and thus must give a credit as these are the aspects that raises the film's score.

emerging as a shadow
Lore wise it is intimated that these vampires can turn into cats – a reach back to Carmilla. We do not get a definite kill within the film, whilst the vampires are attacked we by no means can be sure if any are actually dead. The online background suggests that feeding the blood of the dead will kill a vampire but this isn’t mentioned in film. They do seem to suggest they are, well, omnipotent – intimating that they know all – and certainly when they go after loose ends they know just who to attack. We see Talia emerge as a shadow in the ceiling – a great little idea.

vampire attack
So, a mixed bag – but as I say, I think it was a labour of love. I think it a shame that the background offered online couldn’t be pulled into the film as it was fascinating. It has some moments well worth seeing but others that are clichéd and still others that are, frankly, poor. But the fact that it has the good moments makes it worth a punt I think. 3.5 out of 10 is a score that reflects those good moments and remembers that this is on a budget.

The imdb page is here.

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