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