Director: Paco Plaza | Script: Jorge Guerricaechevarria | Cast: Aria Bedmar (Narcisa), Maru Valdevielso (Sister Julia), Luisa Merelas (Moeder Overste), ea | Time to play: 89 minutes | Year: 2023
The novice Narcisa arrives at a boarding school in 1949 to teach the girls. The other nuns already know her, because ten years earlier she appeared on the news as someone who had a vision and floated. Her sensitivity to the supernatural comes in handy, as unexplainable things happen in this building.
The opening is not particularly strong, with so-called black and white images of a young Narcissa somewhere in a Spanish hole rising a few centimeters into the air in front of many worshipers; the images are not very convincingly CG and the editing is too modern. But that is immediately offset by what follows.
Narcisa, now dressed as a nun, arrives at an old building in a remote part of Spain, where bullet holes still remain in the wall from when the sisters were gunned down by a platoon during World War II. There is an old pain in these walls, a foreshadowing of what awaits Narcisa and the viewer. She then introduces her to an older nun, who points out that everyone here is equal, shortly after she passes by a group of floor scrubbers without acknowledging her existence.
This true beginning of Sister Death It promises that it will be a horror film with more than one layer, and it delivers. There are some bad moments, which briefly rely on clichés, such as the mysterious ball that rolls on its own or a chair that falls on its own. But it seems that these are only there to communicate that this is a horror film with supernatural elements. The well-known rhetorical figures soon give way to their own interpretation.
Take the background music for example: deep electronic bass combined with Arabic sounds. Unexpected in a movie about nuns from 1949, but it works. It gives a ritualistic atmosphere that goes hand in hand with Narcissa’s vague visions. Consideration has also been given to how certain scenes should be represented. Although nothing happens, it is incredibly sinister to look at Narcissa, who is standing in a dark room while a gigantic cross hangs behind her in the lighted room; He almost seems to be watching her.
A lot is told in less than an hour and a half, but it never feels rushed. The mystery is not revealed through dialogue, but through actions. Narcissa’s visions are a great excuse to just show things. Exactly as it should be in the cinematic medium (and also enjoyable in a Spanish film where there is often so much laughter at breakneck speed that reading the subtitles is almost impossible for people with dyslexia).
Narcisa’s own background is less strong. She says that she doesn’t remember anything from that day when she had a vision and was floating. One of the nuns asks her if she has ever wondered if this comes from above or below. A later scene subtly hints that Narcissa is unwittingly connected to dark forces. A deep male voice in a confessional asks: ‘Don’t you recognize me?’ But in principle nothing else is done with this information.
The ending will not be clear to everyone. It’s hard to miss what’s happening, but a brave decision is made in telling its conclusion. Still, it’s not a predictable conclusion.
In general, the world still sees nuns as good people, although some of those pious ladies are known to have been responsible for much emotional suffering. The movie Filomena It’s covered this topic before, but this Spanish horror takes a less forgiving approach.
This horror movie with nuns will receive much less attention than the one that recently swept the box office at the cinema. Too bad, because this one is better. Less cheap effect, more content. Also a little less scary, which is a shame for a film of this genre. But that’s forgivable thanks to the well-told story and meticulous camera work.
Sister Death can be seen in Netflix.