Sister Death (2023)

Sister Death (2023)

A grim Spanish horror where what’s most terrifying is the unspoken terror committed against women of the cloth

7.5

Movie

Spain
Latin, Spanish
Drama, Horror
2023
PACO PLAZA
Almudena Amor, Antonio Duque, Arantza Vélez
91 min

TLDR

Nuns are scary, but the real horror is the trauma.

What it's about

Formerly known as the Holy Girl, Narcisa chooses to become a nun, ten years after her miraculous vision. As part of her duties, she is asked to teach in a school for girls, in a former convert that was ransacked after the Spanish Civil War.

The take

Remember the creepy blind nun from the Spanish horror film Veronica? While many nun-related horror films have nuns as its horror element, this time it’s the nun that gets spooked in Sister Death. The new release expands on her backstory, taking the story back in history, in her start as a novitiate in the former convent, a location that’s been changed after the terrors inflicted towards the nuns during the Spanish Civil War. While the film doesn’t delve that deeply, focusing instead on the slowly building up the film’s terror, there is something here about the hidden violence and covered-up trauma that still haunt the Catholic church in Spain, especially to those that have taken vows. Director Paco Plaza meticulously frames each terrific sequence with the isolating doubt in one’s faith that Narcisa experiences.

What stands out

Sister Death is excellently executed. The film’s horrific elements aren't just jump scares of scary looking nuns– instead, director Plaza takes its time to lull you into the eerie images, taking advantage of the convent’s echo to produce faraway thuds and screams that Narcisa can’t help but look into. The eerie sound design pairs well with the film’s camera movement, as the camera matches the movement of Narcisa’s steady glance, leading to the mysterious echoes that get louder and louder. While it does rely a bit too much on dream sequences, this approach makes the film’s horror feel more than a cheap thrill. It’s an approach that allows us to dive into the former convent’s mystery, as Narcisa tries to figure out what happened in the building.

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