There is no shortage of locations for Jo’s haunted
French Quarter tours. Unfortunately, she can’t stop bringing her work home each
night. Lately, she has been beset by weird visions and feelings of dread. She
suspects it all has something to do with her mother’s premature death. The
circumstances surrounding the incident remain murky, but that is true of much
that you will find in Jorge Torres-Torres’s Sisters
of the Plague (trailer here),
which screens as part of the inaugural Queer Horror Night at this year’s
In retrospect, Jo was probably asking for
trouble when she participated in staged “witchcraft” shows for her tour
patrons. Rather than cheesy shtick for the tourists, they look pretty real, but
perhaps that is a bad thing. Although her mother has been dead for a while now,
Jo still has unanswered questions. She was hoping her formerly-estranged drunkard
father Bob would have some answers when she let him move in, but they are still
rather standoffish around each other.
For obvious reasons, Jo’s girlfriend Kate is
less than thrilled to have the constantly hacking, hard drinking Bob in such
close proximity. Jo’s increasingly erratic behavior gives her further reason to
conclude this family just isn’t cute anymore. Yet, Jo is sufficiently lucid to
recognize she has a problem. Proactively, she seeks help from an old school
psychic in some of the film’s best sequences.
Josephine Decker and her Butter on the Latch co-star Isolde Chae-Lawrence reunite under the direction of
Torres-Torres, the editor and associate producer of Toad Road, so it is hardly surprising this outing feels like an
unholy marriage of those two hipster films. At least Plague is long on atmosphere, as you would jolly well hope from a
movie set in New Orleans. There are a handful of eerily suggestive scenes, but Jo’s
connective drama gets downright laborious.
Despite her bold extremes, there is something
oddly distancing about Decker’s performance. Chae-Lawrence gives viewers somewhat
more accessible energy and attitude to work with, but it is still hard to
fathom why she sticks around as long as she does. However, Thomas Francis
Murphy deserves all kinds of credit for his uncomfortably gross work as Bob.
Of course, it is hard
to go too far wrong when using New Orleans as the backdrop for a ghost story
involving long buried secrets. In fact, there is something impressive about its
rigid aesthetic, not unlike Sarah Adina Smith’s The Midnight Swim, but it wouldn’t have killed anyone to embrace a
few more genre indulgences. It is an intriguing film to parse and dissect, but
most cult film fans will prefer something a little more fun. Recommended almost
exclusively for fans of Decker and producer-co-writer Jason Banker, Sisters of the Plague screens this
Sunday (10/25) at the Chelsea Bowtie, as part of NewFest 2015.
Labels: Horror Movies, Josephine Decker, New Orleans, NewFest '15