In Veronica, from the same director Paco Plaza, Veronica is a young girl who messes with a Ouija board and faces some steep consequences when the darkness that she reaches out to, returns the favor. In that movie, there is a nun that they call Sister Death. This nun is well respected and has seemingly lost her sight. All the children are afraid of her and give her the nickname for this reason when in fact her name is Sister Narcisa. Right from the jump, Sister Narcisa notices something in Veronica and can see things that maybe she shouldn’t about this young woman. That’s where the movie Sister Death comes in.
In the prequel movie, we get to know that Narcisa was a gifted young child that everyone came to see in her village. And as she reaches adulthood, now played by Aria Bedmar, she joins a school for young girls who have been displaced. Right from the jump you can tell that there is something really disturbing about this school. Yes, the music amplifies everything and sets the tone so you know that it’s creepy. But it’s also the fact that Sister Death took the time to have these wide-open shots that leave your eyes searching everywhere to fully take in the experience of this desolate movie experience. In a way it kind of feels like Narcisa’s loneliness is told through the way that this film is shot.
Like the title of this review suggests, Sister Death is leagues above The Nun in being scary. The Nun relied on its predecessor The Conjuring 2 to keep fans interested. Sister Death doesn’t rely on Veronica. It is its own thing and relies on nightmares and twisted events that leave you feeling like there is something simmering underneath the surface of the school. And along the way you get to experience small clues that are purposefully dropped by the director and the writer Jorge Guerricaechevarría to understand that something terrible has happened here. And that confidence in the viewer speaks very highly of the team’s understanding of horror and how you must guide the audience but also have confidence that they will understand what’s going on.
As for the scary factor of it all, this movie does some things that are straight out of a nightmare. Other movies try to pull you out of the experience and really go for like the shock factor. Sister Death lures you into thinking that the main character is awake. And since you think the character is awake, everything looks okay except that one tiny thing that is out of place. And it’s not sometimes huge things. At one point it was a rosary that instead of beads it was little vials of blood. Another time it was these cookies that Sister Narcisa was eating that actually had eyeballs, foreshadowing what was going to happen to her in the future. Point being, Sister Death felt like a slow burn that twists you up because of how close to reality the horror stems.
That’s not to say that everything is perfect with Sister Death. It might be scarier than The Nun but it still had some pacing issues to contend with. The beginning was solid even though I was a little confused about the opening in black and white with everyone worshiping this young girl. I understood that that was a sequence that I would have to be patient with because we would come back to that. But besides Narcisa staring into the sun and being told she wasn’t good enough to be at that school, we really don’t go back to that. Instead, we shifted gears completely to you thinking that there’s a demon at the school but it’s actually a desperate mother and her child.
If anyone’s watched The Ring then you can understand that a child can be cruel and deadly. And if you’ve watched The Grudge then you understand that someone who died with so much pain and their heart could reverberate back into the world as a curse. But Sister Death jumped so fast into Sister Narcissa staring into the eclipse and then boom she knew everything about what happened. The desperate mother in her child getting justice for their life being ruined by these other nuns who wanted to hide the child was fantastic. I’m always down for a little bit of revenge. But I felt like there was a missing piece that made it so I was left feeling like there was something else that Sister Narcisa was fighting and this mother-daughter duo with something to throw you off.
If anything, Sister Death can have another movie. I don’t think that what Sister Narcissa saw in the confessional with all the eyes and the hands, made sense for the mother and child. Whatever was haunting her alluded to the fact that Narcisa knew who it was. And after she did the whole hangman thing, Rosa was really scared at what the entity behind Narcisa was saying. I think there’s something more to this story and I hope I’m not just thinking too hard on this. If there was nothing else to the movie and it was all the mother and the daughter, then Sister Death ends up ultimately being a disjointed story about a young woman unearthing secrets while also barely giving us any understanding as to who she is besides meek and uncertain if she wants to join the church.
Sister Death is now available on Netflix.