The film opens with Narcisa, who is believed to be a religious prodigy after she claimed to have seen the Virgin Mary in a vision as a child, which quickly elevates her to “celebrity” status among the nuns at the convent. Left to contend with the lofty expectations of those around her, Narcisa feels quite torn about pursuing nun-hood, as she is not sure about committing to this way of life without considering all facets of her inclinations. Faith is like a chameleon that changes color as it constantly takes on new meanings with personal revelations, and is often used as a means to chain individuals to dogma. Narcisa acutely experiences these shifts, especially when one of her students experiences possession, which leads the nun on a path of no return.
The symbolism employed in “Verónica” returns to underline the central idea of dark entities being summoned during an eclipse, which ties into the convent’s dark history, which remains ever-elusive. More questions pile up as Narcisa finds herself faced with an impossible situation, and she’s tempted to flirt with the occult in her search for more answers. Plaza paces the first half like a slow-burn mystery thriller, and just when we are comfortable enough to expect more of the same, the scares are employed in increasingly unsettling ways. There’s ample room for ambiguity too, as “Sister Death” does not offer too much clarity, preferring to reveal just enough to make audiences think deeper and establish links that might or might not end up feeding into its core essence.
A double feature with “Verónica” would be a perfect way to experience “Sister Death,” as both films treat an overlapping tale differently, but complement one another in near-perfect ways.
“Sister Death” is currently streaming on Netflix.