Updated: Nov 27, 2020
‘Sister Tempest’ is a brilliantly deranged spiralling deluge into a struggling mind.
Infused with style and 50’s stock footage it charts Anne Hutchison, an art teacher who has recently lost her sister and now finds herself before what appears to be the court of God or the Universe or perhaps Lord Buckethead? We aren’t sure and this vagueness plays into the film as it goes from strength to strength throwing 60’s psychedelic space operas in with pulpy vampire horror. Were it to try and take all parts of itself seriously it would often crumble under its own weight; refreshingly, however, what proceeds is a hilarious and oftentimes thought provoking indie film with serious staying power. Bolstered by fantastic special effects is a cast putting everything into this twisted fairytale of bloody artistic expression.
Within the first 10 minutes one can determine if this will click with them, Anne’s sister Karen sits with her boyfriend Chris Tidalwave (Yes, Tidalwave) lamenting in what is one of the funniest lines I have heard from a film this year ‘God Chris! What the hell! Why do you have a human eyeball in your hand?!’ The random and seemingly meaningless asides will turn off some but had me ready to sit back and let the comedic vignettes corrupt my eyes while the insanity relentlessly continued. Many films attempt to throw random allusions to genres and weird and outlandish characters at the screen as a way to seem subversive and avant-garde, yet often, the structure and narrative are as disparate as the characters themselves. This is not the case in ‘Sister Tempest’ which demonstrates a commanding use of narrative, a subject itself that the film explores deeply. It achieves impressive clarity by employing an incredibly attractive and mentally unstable physics professor to function as a bumbling greek chorus and structures itself into chapters to help ground the kaleidoscopic plot.
The atmosphere created is overwhelming, making you feel as if you are watching the visualisation of a child’s imagination or rather fever dream. Indeed, some of the younger actors are lacking but this does not substantially detract from the picture and are used sparingly in more symbolic imagery. The film does touch on a lot, concepts of transgression, traditions, female empowerment, family and truth are all examined. It might be a bit too much for one film and could probably have benefitted from a shorter run time but the constantly shifting artistic style, shuffling scenes and myriad of surprising twists is more than enough to keep it entertaining through to its epic conclusion.
If you think you can handle a delirious assault to the senses that offers little respite but plenty of laughs then, wade in and see how you come out on the other side.