A spiritual presence haunts a lesbian couple in “Sisters of the Plague”

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When I heard about Sisters of the Plague, I jumped at it. Horror movies are my jam, especially this time of year, and a horror movie with lesbians always grabs my attention. After watching the film, which was co-written and directed by Jorge Torres-Torres, I can tell you this: Sisters of the Plague is trying very hard to be something. I’m just not quite sure what.

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Leading lady Jo (Josephine Decker) is a haunted New Orleans tour guide. She takes tourists through the streets of the French Quarter, and tells them the spookiest tales of the city. (She’s also a performance artist, because of course.) Haunted herself by her mother’s suicide a few years before, Jo has a fascination with the realm that exists beyond the living plane. She decides the best way to deal with these thoughts of her mother, is to invite her ailing father to come live with her and her bartender girlfriend, Kate (Isolde Chae-Lawrence). Jo’s dad is a piece of work, and it’s not long before Kate has had it with his constant smoker’s cough and intrusion on their lives.

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Instead of trying to patch things up with Kate, Jo retreats further and further into her obsession with her mother’s death, first hiring a psychic, then taking things into her own hands. Her performance pieces become more and more entrenched in the occult, and frankly, shit gets weird. Kate, for her part, doesn’t do much to make things better, and it’s eventually revealed that their relationship has been struggling for a while. Jo’s father brings some sort of a presence into the house, and it causes all involved to crack in one way or another.

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There are many scenes in the film that simply feel unfinished, and major plot points happen without enough gravitas to back them up or even make all that much sense to the viewer. It almost leaves you with the feeling that the film was over-edited. The dialogue feels largely improvised, which I’m not sure was intentional or not. That feeling of organic dialogue can work in the right circumstances, but unfortunately in this case, it makes the film feel less than polished. The film does have some great performances, especially by Josephine Decker who gives much more than she gets, and Thomas Francis Murphy, who plays Jo’s down and out father.

Sisters of the Plague may not have all the trappings of a good ol’ scary movie, it does have some interesting cinematic and emotional elements that may appeal to horror fans looking for a queer-centric film to check out.

 Sisters of the Plague is playing this Sunday during Newfest in NYC.

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