Teenagers running through the wooded night. This idea has long evoked images of a woodland backdrop of drugs, sex and mischief that permeates the paranoid minds of worried parents. Add the possibility of a sex cult of teen witches, and the bubbling cauldron of chaos that erupts is “The Sisterhood of Night.”

A-

The Sisterhood of Night
Cine Mosaic
Quality 16

Born as a Kickstarter, the female-driven cast and production crew frames the story of a modern day Salem Witch Trials in a suburban New York town in the wake of a massive media scandal. Started by the alluring Mary Warren, (Georgie Henley, “The Chronicles of Narnia”) whose name is just one of multiple allusions to the work of Michigan Daily alum Arthur Miller’s “The Crucible,” Mary and her best friends, Catherine (Willa Cuthrell, “Whatever Works”) and Lavinia, (Olivia DeJonge, “Eleven Thirty”) choose its members to join their secret bonfire-lit rituals in the woods. While all the girls in school wish to be selected for The Sisterhood’s vow of silence, one outsider with a burning desire for popularity and social media fame, Emily Parris (Kara Hayward, “Moonrise Kingdom”) goes to extremes to join them. Infuriated by the events of a night in the woods, Emily uses her blog to start rumors about The Sisterhood that spiral fatally out of control.

The film had the potential to be a banal dismissal of the overwrought feelings of teenagers, but instead it dives deep into genuine problems of today’s youth. The difficult situations of each girl’s home are made clear, but the real issue dealt with is cyberbullying. The power of the Internet is illustrated by the clout of Emily’s growing blog and The Sisterhood’s lack of a social media presence. The trade for secrecy over Facebook is one of the most shocking things to the confused and incompetent grown ups of the town as they beg the girls to tell them everything, an effort they respond to with closed lips and shaking heads.

Contributing to the sense of teenage superiority, the girls in the film prove to be better actors than the fumbling adults whose lines seem awkward and out of place. Henley gives an especially fantastic performance as the fierce and beautiful Mary whose undeniable essence of cool makes it plausible that she could actually lead a cult.

The montages of perfectly manicured suburbia are reminiscent of messages in films such as “The Virgin Suicides” and “American Beauty,” where things are not as they seem. First time director Caryn Waechter’s shots of Kingston, New York give an eerie sense of ominous presences behind the preened lawns and perfect houses. Like their escape from social media, the girl’s constant forays into the night conveys their yearning to break out of the oppressive structures and find their real selves.

While the film deals with serious subject matter, its best moments display the happiness of female friendship. Unlike most popular culture, it places equal importance on platonic and romantic love. Some of the best scenes are the celebrations and dances of The Sisterhood, when the pure joy that emanates from the girls puts a smile on the face of everyone in the audience. The triumphs of girl power frolic with the actors throughout the movie, with their secrets following close behind.

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