Film Review: The Sisterhood of Night Showcases A Modern Day Salem Witch Trial
Set in the small town of Kingston, New York, The Sisterhood of Night is a bold new independent film that follows a clique of high school girls whose friendship comes under intense scrutiny when one girl decides to turn to the blogosphere to expose their dark deeds. The movie is the first feature film for both director Caryn Waechter and screenwriter Marilyn Fu, who met each other at Columbia University.
Adapted from Steven Millhauser’s 1994 short story, the screenplay still left room for Fu’s creativity. “As a writer you’re bound to come up with stories that haven’t happened yet because they’re personal to you. There’s a scene where Kara Hayward—from Moonrise Kingdom who plays Emily Parris—mispronounces the word “whore” and its a moment that a lot of people laugh at. It actually happened to me as a kid, and it was really embarrassing! And now it’s inspiration.”
Considering it was her screenwriting debut, Fu worked closely to cast the actresses for the film, including the other three girls, Georgie Henley from Chronicles of Narnia (Mary Warren), Olivia DeJonge (Lavinia Hall), and Willa Cuthrell (Catherine Huang)
Fu notes that initially, she envisioned Catherine as Mary’s best friend, “displaying a quiet confidence," but she was pleasantly surprised when Willa Cuthrell auditioned. "She had an edge to her. Her hair was wild, she was wearing a button-down shirt. She brought a fierceness to the character that was different from what I imagined, but that was fun."
That unexpectedness worked in 17-year-old Chinese American Willa Cuthrell's favor, since she was cast as one of the leading stars. This is her first film playing an Asian American character and she was thrilled. “I really looked forward to playing someone whose ethnicity is part of her identity. Usually when there’s a person of color [in American films] it always has to be addressed as a point of humor or stereotyped. This movie does a really good job casting an Asian family that has a culture and that’s the way it is.”
Quotes have been edited for clarity and length.