Sister Death (2023) Movie Review – An unexpected prequel that falls flat

An unexpected prequel that falls flat

It’s the end of October, and people’s 31 Days of Horror watch lists may begin to grow a little tiresome. Surprisingly, Netflix, a service that never really had any big home runs with horror films, has got you covered.

This weekend marks the release of Sister Death, a Spanish horror directed by Paco Plaza. The film follows a nun with supernatural powers who arrives at what used to be a convent and is now a school for girls. As her time there extends, she encounters horrific situations that begin to unravel the truth behind the convent.

If you go into Sister Death blind, but you saw the 2017 Netflix horror hit Veronica, you’ll figure out early on that this movie is actually a prequel to the earlier film. Veronica was part coming of age, part supernatural horror.

It was about a teenage girl who set a demonic force out into the world by unwillingly Veronica attends a religious school where a strange, eerie older nun works and lives called Sister Narcisa.  The students called her Sister Death because she utterly terrified them. Now, in the 2023 prequel, a younger Sister Narcisa is the main focal point of the film, as it is her origin story, so to speak, in Spain in the 1940s.

One thing prominent in Sister Death and, frankly, in a lot of religious horror is that the main character is having a crisis of faith. Sister Narcisa is loaded with doubts, as she is on the verge of becoming locked in as a nun. Now at the little girl’s school, she sees visions of horrifying, gory supernatural forces that plan to do harm to her and the children, and it adds to her doubts about serving God.

Sister Death has a lot of good things going for it. It was a great casting choice, with Aria Bedmar in the title role. It’s atmospheric and looks like a film about a haunting. Everything feels so lived-in at the school she teaches at.

There is a stuffiness to it all; like an old church that is maintained but never really evolves. A lot of the horror isn’t even in the darkness. There’s a brightly lit scene with scares that happen in the hot, repressive-looking sunlight.

The movie feels like a nice nod to the surge of Spanish horror films of the 1970s, and yet Sister Death will get labelled as “Nunsploitation” by someone somewhere, but it also doesn’t wrap itself up in that sub-genre.

With all this being said, Sister Death does fall short in character development. There could be so much explored here, even if the run time of ninety minutes stayed the same.

Sister Death may get lumped into a failed attempt at an A24-style horror film. There is so much more you want out of a movie like this in terms of themes it could tackle, and it never even attempts to swing for the fences on it. As a matter of fact, it plays it safe with exploring complex topics in terms of religion and the afterlife and has an utterly awful payoff in its final act.

Sister Death is worth viewing; there are parts of it that can put you in it. But just know there’s parts that can take you out of it. You’ll realize about halfway through that it utilizes the same old horror tropes that we see in other genres and doesn’t utilize its chance to go really big and cut deep into the world it is set in.


Read More: Sister Death Ending Explained

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  • Verdict - 5/10

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