Sisters Of Death, 1976. 5/10

Not bad–but could’ve been a lot better. I wouldn’t quite agree with those who say that Sisters Of Death should’ve been a parody. But that complaint touches on the main problem with the movie–the tone is agonizingly uneven. Here’s a bunch of young women, all of whom seem more-or-less well-adjusted independent adults, who nonetheless act half their ages. I could see each of them being curious enough to meet up with their old sorority friends at the motel; $500 is a heck of an inducement (at least a couple thousand $ now). But their willingness to just go along from there with two strange guys isn’t believable. Only if they were abducted would it add up.

The premise itself is strong enough–the fact that it’s derivative doesn’t bother me; the Ten Little Indians plot is a good one to emulate. One interesting development is that the two underlings, Joey (Joe Tata) and Mark (Paul Carr) switch sides. That device energizes the plot, as the focus shifts from these clueless arrested-development women doing the 70s equivalent of ‘OMG!’ all over the place to actual escape plans. Tunneling, shutting off the power to the electric fence, etc., nothing works–it makes sense that it shouldn’t be easy for them to escape. The dumbest moment occurs when Joey practically hurls himself into the fence…Anyway, by this time they know what they’re dealing with–their unfortunate sorority sister’s (Liz’s) dad (Arthur Franz as the creepy Edmond Clybourn). Liz’s accidental (?) death obviously didn’t go down so well with him–thus the motive for the plot. As the women start to be picked off, another complication arises–is one of them complicit in the revenge scheme?

It’s not surprising that the turncoat happens to be Slyvia (Cheri Howard); she’s been furtive all along. Her fingering Judy (Claudia Jennings) might be some cunning misdirection. Judy rather adroitly turns the tables again by admitting she knew that Liz would die, but Liz wanted to! Then we get the dastardly Gatling gun replay of the original Russian Roulette deal. Mark (or is it Joe?) saves the day; Judy dispatching Clybourne–Angelina Jolie-style, with a good shot. I can see how this movie is more in the action genre than horror. Well, the final victim is our good guy, Mark. Meaning, Judy really did set up Liz’s death. I guess. But why does Mark have to die? With Clybourne justifiably gone, there’s no more danger to Judy, or anyone else.

In any case, I thought the ending helped this rather lethargic movie come to life at just the right time. The twists and turns seem appropriate for what is essentially a murder mystery. This could’ve been more mysterious and/or horrific had the tone not undercut for at least half of the runtime. Like someone else said, there’s too many daylight scenes. The Spanish colonial mansion looks plenty creepy at night, but pretty much resort-like in the day. It has secret passageways, underground rooms with some cool artifacts, it’s isolated…sort of Old California gothic. But the filmmaker rarely took advantage of the atmospheric setting.

Maybe worth watching; nothing really stands out as much as the very first scene. In between that and the fairly dramatic ending is a lot not-quite-this and not-really-that. 5/10.

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