Sister Tempest (2020)

Sister Tempest
Director: Joe Badon
Writer: Joe Badon, Jason Kruppa
Cast: Kali Russell, Holly Bonney, Linnea Gregg, Alex Stage, Taylor Guarisco, Nadia Eiler, Aubrey Elise, Andre LaSalle, Collin Galyean
Seen on: 30.1.2021
[Screener Review.]

Anne (Kali Russell) has been taking care of her sister Karen (Holly Bonney) ever since they were children (Nadia Eiler, Aubrey Elise) and their parents died. But Karen has started dating drug dealer Chris (Taylor Guarisco) and things have been tense between the sisters ever since. When Chris gets shot and Karen goes missing, Anne’s life completely unravels and she finds herself in front of an alien tribunal tasked with finding out what happened.

Sister Tempest is a strange film, to say the least. It wraps the two sisters’ story into a surreal package of aliens, vampire-cannibals and angels. I enjoyed that approach a lot. Though there were a couple of things that I didn’t love, overall the film is an experience you should go for.

The film poster showing drawings of Anne and Karen both as adults and children in front of a much bigger drawing of an astronaut.

The least exciting thing about Sister Tempest is probably its story. I also didn’t love the way it was solved – although I was completely caught up in the emotions of the moment between the two sisters at the end, I’m not entirely sure it was earned. I was also less enthusiastic about the religious turn things took in the end (there is some hinting at it before it, an angel appearance, some religous imagery, but at the end we’re in full-blown religious allegory territory and that is not my thing).

But the way there is one hell of a ride, and I was completely here for that ride. And that is not an easy thing to pull off, especially given the film’s two-hour-runtime: more often than not, drawing a whole lot of weirdness and surreality out for that long becomes a little boring. But Sister Tempest gives us enough coherence through the basic story that there’s always a good sense of the story progressing that staves off the feeling of getting drowned in the weird. Also, it does have a sense of humor that breaks through every once in a while and is very much appreciated.

Anne (Kali Russell) looking sad and tired.

Badon gives us some very nice images, but I was particularly impressed by the editing and the sound mixing here that created some extremely nice effects. The soundtrack is also really nice. A couple of songs gave the film a touch of a musical, and it ends with the haunting Someday We’ll Linger in the Sun by Gaelynn Lea that gave me goosebumps and let me glide out of the film and its credits in the perfect way.

Overall, Sister Tempest is what you hope for when you watch an independent film: it makes the most of a rather small budget to give you a fresh approach and some experimentation. Not all of those experiments work perfectly, but they are definitely worth a try. As is the entire film, even if it might not be up everybody’s alley.

Karen (Holly Bonney) as the center of a surreal tableau, holding out a giant egg.

Summarizing: Really interesting and strong.

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