The Sisterhood (Philippines 1988)

Rating: **
Review Date: 1/29/18
Director: Cirio Santiago
Cast: Rebecca Holden, Lynn-Holly Johnson, Chuck Wagner, Barbara Hooper

In a post-apocalyptic future, The Sisterhood is a group of fearsome women warriors who have magical powers. Several of their members have been captured by a cruel warlord, so Alee (Rebecca Holden) and Vera (Barbara Hooper) set out to rescue them. Meanwhile, a young woman named Marya (Lynn-Holly Johnson) is on the run after her village was raided by a group of desert marauders. As fate would have it, she meets up with Alee and Vera, and the three of them team up to storm the bad guy's fortress with some weapons they find in a lost pre-war bunker. And then The Sisterhood's mysterious benefactor gives a speech and makes them all vanish into thin air. The end. Huh?

You know you're in for a low budget treat when the opening credits consist of a horrible looking film negative that's dirty and scratched. Seriously? Was that really the best thing they could come up with? As you would expect from director Cirio Santiago, the same vehicles and locations are used from all of his other post-apocalyptic desert adventures. All of the action takes place in the same spot, and the cars repeatedly drive on the same piece of road over and over. The music is your typical 1980's synth pop, but it's cut together so horribly that the result is jarring and abrasive. The fight scenes are fun and plentiful, although the execution tends to be weak. Chuck Wagner seems to be the only one who is halfway decent, and he takes it very seriously. While the fight choreography and execution may be lacking, I have to give credit to the camera work and editing. The fight scenes are shot long and wide with a stabilized camera and very few cuts, so you get to see every move and hit. This is exactly the opposite of what Hollywood does today, where everything is a chaotic mess and you can't see what's going on at all. I certainly appreciated Santiago's old school approach. On the same note, the camera work is pretty decent throughout, which may just be an artifact of the times or a reflection of my own cinematic sensibilities.

The story is pretty typical for the genre with its barren wastelands, poisonous forbidden zones, barbaric mutants, lost technology, and talk of "the before time", but the crazy ending is inexplicable. And if the Supreme Mother could magically free the captured girls, why didn't she just do that in the first place? It's also interesting that Chuck Wagner's character is morally ambiguous. He's a soldier for hire and a ruthless killing machine, but is he really a bad guy? At the film's conclusion, we're led to believe that he's actually a hero, despite his cruel and merciless behavior. The Sisterhood women are about what you'd expect: young and beautiful ladies wearing short shorts, tall boots, and mid-riff baring tops. Rebecca Holden is wonderful, although she wears way too much makeup. She also shoots laser beams out of her eyes, which comes as a bit of a shock. Lynn-Holly Johnson is the real standout, and she does a surprisingly good job with the material. She's extremely pretty, and her performance conveys an overwhelming sense of hopelessness and despair, which is perfect for the role. Despite its low budget genre trappings, the film has a sincerity and charm that I enjoyed quite a bit, and having a post-apocalyptic desert adventure that's led by three strong women is definitely something that I appreciate.