The ads for The Sisterhood of Night got me all riled up for nothing. The movie’s trailer promised that there would be some in-the-woods witchcraft silliness (that would be somewhat buried under some over the top courtroom drama, but still) mostly like a millennial The Craft in nature. Or at least that’s what I hoped for when I saw the trailer. My persistent thirst for witchy media may have blinded me from seeing what was truly being advertised: an afterschool special/Lifetime Original Movie type tyrade against the dangers of online bullying. The Sisterhood of Night did feature brief flashes of witchy vibes & media frenzy nonsense, but it was mostly a simple tale about how teen girls should be nicer to each other online. It’s a nice sentiment, but not exactly a profound or captivating one.
Self-described as having “an atmosphere of furious accusation and hysterical rumor”, The Sisterhood of Night warns of the dangers of telling a lie to gain more attention online, especially when it’s at the expense of your peers’ reputations. When a few teenage girls decide to go offline (delete their blogs & Facebook accounts, basically) and start forming a more personal, intimate community in the woods, their return to nature is approached by outsiders with rampant suspicion. A jealous girl who was not invited throws some wild accusations at their secret goings on in order to get some sweet blog clicks and the whole thing spirals out of control in a way that teaches everyone involved lessons about empathy, trust, privacy, and how absolutely fucking tough it is to be a teenage girl. Again, the intent of the movie is admirable, but there just isn’t a whole lot going on that will leave any impression at all, positive or negative, on most viewers.
I was wrong to assume so much about The Sisterhood of Night’s plot before I had seen the actual film. The one time someone actually delivers what I wanted and shouts, “I’m a witch & The Sisterhood is a cult!” it was a sarcastic exchange. I’m not sure how much this false assumption colored my response to the film, but I doubt I would have watched it at all otherwise. There’s some interesting ideas at play here about why a modern teen would decide to “go offline” and the ways both adults & kids alike can be really shitty to teens for no reason other than they want a private space to be themselves. The execution never felt that more adept than a decent made-for-TV movie, though, so the message feels a little flat, no matter how admirable. After finding an unexpected wealth of enjoyment in both Unfriended & The DUFF, The Sisterhood of Night is the third anti-online bullying film I’ve seen released in 2015 and the least memorable of its kind. If only they had worked those ideas into a story about actual witches, I might have changed my tune.