This one popped up on my suggested movies list when I was browsing horror flicks so I figured I’d give it a shot. Although it quickly became evident that there was zero horror element to the movie, it wasn’t half bad for a drama/mystery film. It just happened to be mislabeled as a thriller, rather than a teen movie that’s pretty much the equivalent of an unfunny Mean Girls with a mystery added in for suspense purposes.

It helps that one of the main characters is the beautiful Olivia de Jonge, whom I’d last seen in The Visit a couple of nights ago, although this film is her actual movie debut. There’s something haunting about that girl, and she played her part to perfection. Kal Penn was also a pleasant surprise as the school guidance counselor, but the best part about the adults in the movie was the mini-Breaking Bad reunion of Jessica Hecht and Laura Fraser (Gretchen Schwartz and the amazing Lydia Rodarte-Quayle respectively) as two of the girls’ mothers.

The story is very straight forward: a few girls form the ‘Sisterhood of the Night‘ and start meeting in secret in the woods at night, provoking a variety of rumors as to what exactly goes on when the group gets together. The entire town of Kingston gets turned upside down when other girls from school claim they were recruited by the Sisterhood, but were freaked out by the deviant sex acts and rituals performed during the meetings and decided to speak up. Thus begins a ‘witch hunt’, which is a very exaggerated way of putting this, that intensifies as the girls refuse to divulge what the Sisterhood is really all about, upholding their vow of silence, despite getting into trouble with their parents, the school and basically everyone else in Kingston.

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[spoiler warning]

This mass hysteria, which is basically unfounded and without a shred of evidence other than some girls’ accusations and accounts of the events going on in the Sisterhood, finally gets the school and their parents involved; a curfew is imposed in town, and Kingston is in the media spotlight, with random reporters harassing the members of the Sisterhood in order to get an exclusive. The girls, who were at first the school envy, as everyone wanted to be part of their secret group, gradually go from being mildly intimidating to true outcasts.

Eventually, things turn ugly (and rape-y) when one of the girls is seduced by the school stud; a crowd gathers to take photos and videos of her topless, and the awful school kids drug her and take her to a halloween party, where she’s now the object of ridicule. Not able to take the shame, she takes her own life. Finally realizing that this has gotten way out of hand, the girl who initiated the rumors out of jealousy for not being accepted into the Sisterhood confesses that it was all a lie, and we get the obligatory happy ending, which sees the girls reconciling and dancing down the street together in honor of their dead friend.

As far as the plot goes, I wouldn’t go so far as to characterize this as a ‘modern day Salem witch trial’, regardless of what IMDb tells me, nor would I compare it with any other witchcraft-related movie. The girls only seem to embrace the witch-related rumors as a defense against having their secrets exposed, and in the end it’s just that: secrets. In an era when everyone seems content to air their dirty laundry in public, these girls’ decision to take it offline and only share their thoughts, dreams and fears among the small group of friends is inexplicable to their classmates and anyone else who reads the whistle-blower’s blog; they happily attribute a sinister quality to it all, reaching for the closest explanation that makes sense to them.

Is it a bit of a stretch, having 14 year old girls sneak off to the woods in the middle of the night to talk about their secrets, with no objection from their parents? Sure. Is it bizarre that the disgruntled girl’s blog would suddenly gain such immense popularity overnight, all because of some teenage lies, to the point where every young girl in the world who had gone through some kind of abuse would choose that blog as an outlet for their pain? Definitely. Is the anticlimactic admission that all these girls actually did in the Sisterhood was talk to each other not surprising in the least? Yep, absolutely.

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In the end, the entire movie reads like a 21st century version of the movie Gossip, with the slut-shaming replaced with… I guess you’d call it witch-shaming? It’s not exactly the most insightful movie out there in terms of human psyche exploration, but it touches on a variety of teen-related frustrations – from peer pressure to having their lives exposed online, and from the desire to fit in to the catastrophic effects of lies and spiteful rumors. Or, if you want to be cynical about it, it’s about how mean teenage girls can actually be.

Its dark atmosphere doesn’t make it exactly entertaining in the wider sense of the word, but it’s a perfectly nice little film, with three-dimensional characters and a story that isn’t always black and white.

Verdict: not bad at all.