Sister Hell (Review)

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SISTER HELL

THE SETUP

Firstly I’d just like to say thank you to Writer/Director, Fredrik S. Hana for allowing me access to an online screener of his 15 minute, Psychological Horror/comedy short “Sister Hell”. Please excuse the pixelated version of the above poster art, I couldn’t get access to a high-resolution photo so it will have to do for now. Sister Hell is the story of a reclusive nun who decides to leave the monastery in order to become the curvy and voluptuous women she truly sees herself as, but it might come at a cost. The film stars Thomas Aske Berg, Espen Hana, Oliver Hohlbrugger, Anders Hommersand and Johanna K. Rostad. Fredrik has directed a handful of other short films but this is the first time I’ve seen any of his work.

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THE GOOD

Hana’s script is quite an interesting one. Through careful pacing he manages to capture that innocence and naivety with which our young protagonist approaches her goal. The core theme in Fredrik’s script is discovery. Specifically where and how we fit into the world. Being able to comfortably exist in one’s skin without fear of judgement or in this case, eternal damnation. Sister Hell approaches its body modification surgery in a similar way The Soska Sisters did with “American Mary”. The procedure plays out with fast cuts as we see a mix of slapdash cutting and stapling. You can imagine the aftermath… it’s realistic and rather disgusting. On the other side of the coin, most of Hana’s aesthetics feel like they’re straight out of the 70’s. There’s a magnificent looking church, very old and distinctive making for a great primary location.

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The camera work is very smooth and carefully constructed. Smart and simple shot choices on display, along with some well placed tracking shots in a few scenes. Though the running time is brief the film is still edited superbly. The acting is solid but the dialogue is scarce, most of the messaging is conveyed through visual intensification. The aspect I enjoyed the most in this one was the incredibly jolting, unnerving sound effects. The score reminded me a lot of Robert Eggers film “The Witch” (not a great film but a fantastic score). For the most part the siren effect that’s used, combined with the instrumental sounds helped build everything up (even if it was slightly overused).

THE BAD

I thought it was a little too easy and convenient in the way the back alley business was revealed to us. She’s only just arrived and then all of sudden a neon sign offering cheap surgery appears. I would’ve liked to have seen her have contact with someone else in the city or find a business card etc, maybe that’s how she finds out about the place (just something different). I didn’t like the piece of music playing in the nightclub scene. It wasn’t necessarily because I don’t like the style, I just thought it was a plain and poor piece of music. I was hoping for a clearer message from the themes that were covered. Something with some weight behind it but instead the ending I got was a bit bizarre for me. It was made worse by the decision to mute all the sound during the climax, making it even harder to decipher the deeper resolution. It’s all a matter of personal preference I suppose and I think stories with religion based sub-text tend to lose me.

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Sister Hell was an exploration of a common enough topic but definitely executed in a different and memorable way (no matter how you look at it). It felt to me like part “American Mary”, part “The Witch” while still managing to maintain a certain level of originality. The acting was solid, the camera work/audio well-managed and the eerie sound effects topped off what was a technical success. I would have preferred a few different specifics within some of the writing and a clearer more impactful finale. All the same, Fredrik has made an enjoyable little film that will only take up 15 minutes of your time so be sure to check it out when it becomes available!

My rating for “Sister Hell” is 7/10

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