The Sisterhood (1988)
This is a trashy late 1980s post-apocalyptic action movie, directed by an Italian, staring Americans, and filmed in the Philippines. Clearly, you'd think that this one was doomed to stink from the get-go. And yet, it was sorta kinda cool. There were a lot of nice, and unexpected, character moments, some serious depth to the backstory, and a few pretty girls with swords. Admittedly, there were equal parts of eye-rolling dialogue, hammy acting and way too much teased and hairsprayed '80s hair, but overall I enjoyed watching this movie.
I found The Sisterhood on a battered and dusty VHS tape in an antique mall in Ohio, and burned it to a DVD-R for this review. As such the screen captures are pretty murky, but that's the best I can offer. Other than the picture quality, however, the old tape had great sound, which is uncommon for VHS. No subtitles of course, but the credits had all the character names listed so that wasn't a problem.
And now on to our show...
We open in your typical post-apocalyptic setting, a Mad Max-esque mix of open deserts and boulder-strewn rock quarries. It's just so darn cheap to film in a rock quarry, and it does have a suitable after-the-bomb look to it, especially if you can find one with some old rusty machinery down in the bottom. This is supposed to be somewhere in America, though filmed near Manila in the Philippines.
We first meet a small band of wasteland raiders, violent men used to doing violent things to innocent people and taking their stuff. There are a total of six men in this band, all former soldiers returning from the "Western War". They are dressed like typical PA guys, with lots of leather, black jeans and spray-painted football shoulder pads. They are armed exclusively with edged weapons, swords and knives, showing just how far technology has regressed since the war. They are, however, moving around in some old cars and bikes from pre-war days, tricked out Road Warrior-style with add-on armor and lots of rust.
They are led by a man named Mikal, played by Chuck Wagner. Mikal looks like an extra from Conan the Barbarian, with a goofy leather and metal harness thingie across his chest, and a wicked sword in a scabbard down his back. He kinda looks like Christian Bale at bit, especially when he's chopping up innocent townspeople and stealing their gold. Despite the difficult role he's saddled with here, Chuck Wagner is an excellent actor (really). He imbues what could have been a one-note character in Mikal with a real human side, a sense of humor and a world-weariness about him that really is refreshing to see in such a cheapass PA movie.
Mikal, check that awesome PA hair.
His sidekick (all heroes/bad guys must have a sidekick) is named John, one of the few "normal" pre-war names to be found in this movie. John is a short crew-cut Filipino man who is never without a pair of dark aviator sunglasses.
John, also never without his shoulder pads, which mask the fact that he's only five-foot tall.
We see these raiders are straddling a rutted dirt road in the middle of absolute nowhere. Why they are wasting their time encamped here is not known, surely there isn't that much traffic to molest along this wind-swept stretch of wilderness. But, we need an action sequence to open our movie, so we get to see them ambush two horse riders who just so happen by on the track.
The riders turn out to be two young women and they surprisingly give these big burly men quite a scrum. The men attack with swords and knives, and the girls punch, kick and swing their own swords with much greater skill. Well, I should say that the stuntwomen who keep their backs to the camera at all times and their faces obscured by their cloaks fight with great skill. The two actresses themselves are pretty clumsy-looking when we see their close-ups, and those swords are clearly a bit too heavy for them to wield smoothly, even if they are just tinfoil-covered wooden props. These actresses were obviously hired for their looks rather than their physical abilities, but that's okay.
Stuntwoman there on the left, which is really obvious when you watch them move and then watch the actresses move, totally different.
The fight is nasty and brutish, with two raiders felled by the girls in short order and the other four smacked around pretty good. At one point, one of the girls is pinned down by Mikal and is about to get run through when she looks up at a nearby rocky ridge. Some sort of "energy beam" shoots out of her eyes (!!!!) and causes a rock-fall, which distracts Mikal enough for her to regain the advantage. What the hell! More on that in a second.
The fight ends when all the men are either down or contained, at which point one of the girls says that they have no quarrel with them so they are just going to leave now. There's nothing the raiders can do to stop them, obviously, so they remount and ride off. As they depart, Mikal fumes and rages against the still-living raiders (as if he did any better) for being twacked by these two women. He swears revenge on them, and he means it.
Ok, let's meet these two girls, who will be our movie's main characters. One is named Alee and she will prove to be the heroine of our film. Played by former Breck girl Rebecca Holden, she looks strikingly like Emily Deschanel from Bones, which is a good thing.
Alee, with Breck hair, no doubt.
The other girl is named Vera, a twentysomething blonde played by Barbara Hooper. Hooper's main claim to fame might be getting married to actor Robert "I-carried-Duchovny's-jockstrap-for-a-season" Patrick in 1990 and having cute kids made of liquid metal.
Vera, cute but what's that thing on her head?
While the limping remains of American civilization seem to be man-centered, there's one group that bucks that trend. This is "the Sisterhood", an all-girl band of feminist freedom fighters, of which Alee and Vera are members. Led by "Reverend Mother", they protect wandering travelers and go around righting wrongs in the hinterlands. They also provide a safe haven for women and girls seeking to escape their lives of servitude in the towns of the males.
Seems odd that they would dress so sexy, them being feminists and all, not that I'm complaining.
All the members of the Sisterhood are united by their "special gifts", unique paranormal powers that only certain women can develop. Vera has the gift of healing, which is accomplished by placing one hand on an amulet around her neck and the other hand on the wound. A bluish fuzzy optical effect and an editing splice later and the injury is healed. Alee's gift is just as amazing, she can levitate small objects and move them around. Telekinesis is awesome. She can also zap things with her eye-beam-thingies, which is even more awesome.
Amulet, all the Sisterhood girls have matching ones.
Vera healing Alee.
The Sisterhood is large and well-organized enough to have fought several recent wars against the evil "Western Kingdom". They won every battle but the last (the epic "Battle of Twelve Trees" that the wandering minstrels sing of). In that loss, some of their number were taken captive by the forces of the Western Kingdom and taken to the fortified city of Calcarra. It is to Calcarra that Alee and Vera are headed, to either negotiate their release, or to bust them out.
In a short interlude, we rejoin Mikal and his three surviving raiders as they hire themselves out to a local warlord. This warlord is a bit crazy, rambling on like a Baptist preacher about his sacred quest to find parts for his "war wagon" so he can conqueror the wastelands with it. The broken-down war wagon (first of many subtle nods to James Alxer's Deathlands series of books) is seen briefly and looks to be a Filipino Army Alvis Scorpion. While Mikal isn't happy about it, the warlord is planning on attacking a nearby town for loot and plunder, and hopefully parts for his machine.
The warlord, kinda dark in this scene, but you can tell he's nuts. Don't worry, though, you never see him again in this movie.
And now we go to this town. This your stereotypical PA wasteland town, which is to say basically just an abandoned warehouse on the outskirts of Manila and the dirt acreage around it. Little has been done by the residents to spruce the place up, and I don't see how they can survive here anyway. There doesn't seem to be any source of fresh water, the land is barren and untillable, and there doesn't seem to be anyplace to buy a frozen pizza or a case of Tusker beer. Surely there are more fertile and habitable areas of this new American landscape, someplace where they could relocate to that would provide them more of a life. But, I have to admit, those old rusty girders and crumbled concrete steps do look suitably PA.
Here we meet a young girl named Marya, played by Razzie-winner and former professional ice skater (!) Lynn-Holly Johnson (Marya is said to be just 18-years old, but the actress playing her was nearly 30). Marya is a lowly servant in the employ of Lord Neufield, leader of this town. Marya is a thin athletic woman with blindingly bright white teeth and poufy blow-dried blonde hair. Her standard outfit for this movie is a blue denim shirt, a pair of extremely tight Chic jeans, and knee-high calfskin boots.
Marya, in need of some Frizz-Eze.
Marya has a weird symbiotic relationship with a hawk named Lady Shree. She can "hear" and "talk to" the bird, and the bird in turn looks out for Marya. The hawk comes and goes throughout the movie, showing up when needed or when Marya calls her.
Lady Shree, also looking a little scruffy, or maybe this is just how hawks normally look.
We also meet her brother, a scrawny little punk kid who isn't destined to make it to puberty. He and Marya once lived in the Western Kingdom, but moved out here to this town in the wastelands recently to escape some sort of persecution (maybe because Marya was all spooky with the animals and stuff and people don't take to that sort of thing).
Little brother, sadly favoring trucker hats, a fashion trend that you would hope a nuclear holocaust would end.
The relationship between men and women in this new world is rather Medieval. Women are considered little better than chattel to be bought, sold, and traded by men. A woman can't travel without being accompanied by their owners, can't take up arms, and I'm sure can't in any way become the equal to men. Barefoot and pregnant, and all. How this state of affairs came about is unknown, but it does seem to be a staple of PA movies.
Typical dudes, looking like extras from a bad high school production of Aladdin.
The general population of menfolk consider the Sisterhood to be a coven of witches. They don't understand their spooky powers (nor do I) and so they demonize them rather than accept their uniqueness. In Marya's case, she has to endure scathing rebukes from Lord Neufield and has to dodge rocks tossed at her by superstitious punks. There seems to be an advantage to be had in being known as dangerous witches, however, one which the Sisterhood appears to condone if not actively cultivate. I'm sure on the battlefield, sparking fear in the hearts of your opponents before the swords even cross is a very good thing.
Marya with the hawk, clearly she is a witch, burn her!
Alright, back to the action. The hawk sees the marauder attack massing over the rise and flies back to the town to warn Marya. She, in turn, tries to warn Lord Neufield, but no one believes her. The Lord's secretary (I assume) thinks she's a crazy witch, tells her so, and walks off muttering insults. Marya frets and worries, sure that her world is about to get ugly and there's little she can do about it.
The secretary giving Marya grief, check that awesome ensemble of boonie hat, ferret-fur vest, and lacrosse shoulder pads, all the rage in Milan this year.
And so, as predicted, the marauders attack the town in a rapid motorized frontal assault. Most amazingly, the marauders seem to be in possession of a number of rocket-propelled grenade launchers which they use to breach the town's defenses (they look like RPG-7s, the type you've seen on the news punching through the laughably thin armor of Rumsfeld's vaunted Stryker APCs...). Wasting these irreplaceable weapons on this pitiful little hardscrabble town seems almost criminal, but they do make for nice looking explosions and really loud booms.
RPG, though his accuracy is going to suffer firing from the back of a moving vehicle like that.
These marauders seem to have little modern weaponry other than these rockets, however, and once inside the walls they revert to being sword and pike-wielding Vikings. To their credit, the citizens fearlessly rush out to meet them, armed with little more than blades and leather vests. But they are no match for bloodthirsty marauders and we see a total of 24 townspeople killed by stabbing, slashing, and poking in a variety of ways. In return, they manage to only kill just one marauder and injure a few others.
Storming the town, just don't hurt anyone unless they've signed their waivers!
Mikal in particular shows himself to be an Achilles-like killing machine, scything through the ranks of the defenders, felling anyone brave enough to try him in single combat. His patented move is to take a high swing, forcing his opponent to reach up to parry, exposing his vulnerable stomach to a swift jab or cross-body slash. A total of ten townspeople fall victim to Mikal.
Oh yeah, that's Christian Bale in Reign of Fire right there...
One of Mikal's last victims is Marya's little brother, run through as Marya looks on in horror. Mikal looks genuinely conflicted as the boy dies at his feet, perhaps showing a softer, deeper side to this violent killer. Marya runs to the boy when she sees an opening, but he's already dead. She cries for her loss.
Marya fake-cries over the dead boy, though the kid playing the boy keeps moving in this scene, despite being "dead".
As the battle winds down, Marya escapes into the wastelands. The town's remaining defenders are either killed or routed and the marauders commence to plunder and loot. Many of the marauders decide to go to a "tavern" nearby and spend their plunder on ale and pretzels.
After the battle, Mikal ponders what sort of life he now leads, killing children for some crazyass warlord.
We now go to this tavern, somewhere in the area, with the awesome name of "Dynamite Willy's". This is also located in a half-ruined building (probably a different corner of the same warehouse in Manila we just saw, filming permits and insurance waivers cost money so I'm sure they reused most of the sets and props) and is your typical PA bar, dark and dingy and filled with characters of ill-repute.
A small band of marauders, Mikal included, are there celebrating and gambling. They play some sort of dice game, which Mikal seems inordinately good at, and generally act like drunken frat boys, cussing, spitting, sloshing their beers and ogling the one scuzzy barmaid with bad intent.
An incongruity exists in the form of an operating juke box in the corner! Does this not imply electricity? And therefore a higher level of technology that we've seen yet? Watching the entire movie, I can say that this juke box is the only sign of electricity we see. I think they should have cut that out, it really annoys you once you see it.
For some inexplicable reason Marya now comes into the tavern (why!) and orders some food. She sees the marauders there, and even recognizes Mikal, but she still stays. And, not surprisingly, she gets caught by the barkeeper, who claims her as his own by dint of some law that says any man can claim any unattached female he comes across.
Just then, most conveniently, Alee and Vera walk into the bar. Seeing poor Marya being handled roughly, they demand that she be released. The barkeeper asserts his legal right to them, but Alee claims that some other law says that if an unattached woman verbally requests asylum before any member of the Sisterhood, then that woman is set free. I wonder if all these laws are codified, because they are a bit vague.
Alee and Vera at the bar, all dressed up, scouting for dudes, no doubt.
The barkeeper still won't back down, however, probably because he's legally in the right and he hasn't had any nookie in a long time. Alee then looks over at a glass mug on a counter and levitates it across the room to smash into the barkeeper's head, and Marya runs to them.
A big fight then kicks off in tavern, as some of the marauders start laughing at the barkeeper's plight and others rush to defend him. Guys punch, guys kick, beer flies, tables are upturned, stuntmen whiff roundhouse punches and other stuntmen crash into wooden chairs. This is why I don't go to bars, I'm too scrawny to survive a bar fight.
The barkeep screams that fighting in his bar is "against the compact", and then breaks up the fight by pulling out a bundle of dynamite, lighting the fuse, and declaring to all present that he'll blow the place to the sky if they don't stop breaking his chairs and glasses. The drunken marauders sober up quickly and step away from each other. He then pulls out the fuse and laughs maniacally. The barkeeper, aptly named "Dynamite Willy", is one of those one-scene characters that's more interesting than several of the "stars", a fairly common thing to see in low-budget movies. This unknown bit-part actor hams it up with gleeful abandon, but I'm sure he realized that this was his one shot at fame and he was going to make it memorable.
Dynamite Willy! Yee-haw!
Alee and Vera leave with Marya, Mikal watches them go, vengeance smoldering in his eyes. And yet, you continue to see something deeper in Mikal, something about his background or thought processes that sets him apart from your typical PA bandit. As this movie goes on we will get to know Mikal better and, at times, we begin to sympathize with his motivations, if not his methods.
Marya looks up to see Mikal staring at them.
The three girls get on horses and ride off (Marya escaped from the town earlier on her own horse). They reach a crossroads eventually, and the girls tell Marya that she should go into the mountains to find some friendly villages to take her in. Marya, however, wants to go with them and join the Sisterhood. After a bit of pointless talking, they agree.
Back at the tavern, Mikal hatches a plan to get his revenge on the Sisterhood. His band is now just down to himself and three others (John, Jev and Alek), and they head off after the girls. Mikal rides on his wicked-cool three-wheeled bike and the guys follow him in a chopped-down car.
The bike, which is just awesome.
The car, looks like a Camaro.
At night, the raiders sneak up on the encamped girls and capture Vera. They also wisely run off the horses to prevent a speedy pursuit. Vera is tied to the back of Mikal's bike, two of the raiders jump on horses, and the last drives the car, and the whole convoy races off into the wilderness. Behind them, Alee and Marya rage in frustration and make to chase on foot.
The raiders take Vera to a rock quarry (where else?) where a trading caravan is parked. Here they buy supplies for the trip and sell off the girls' horses that they captured.
The trading caravan, check those trucks.
Lord Barak, the caravan leader, wants the hot Vera but Mikal says no, despite being offered a nice price. Mikal has other uses for Vera, he's going to use her as bait to draw the other Sisters to him so he can kill them all off. We learn in this conversation that the medium of commerce in this new world is "pounds", though we don't know what that means. Is that pounds of salt, pounds of backbacon, pounds of gunpowder, or Pounds Sterling. Whatever it equates to, Lord Barak was willing to pay Mikal 30 pounds for the rights to Vera.
Lord Barak there on the left, looking all twitchy like Christopher Walken.
And now we have the obligatory rape scene, a requirement in all low-budget low-moral PA movies, it seems. Some of the caravan hands take a shining to this pretty girl and jump on her when Mikal is away. Vera's shirt is ripped open, exposing a nice set of boobies, but before anything icky can happen, Mikal inserts himself into the action. Fighting to defend his prize, Mikal thumps the guys with his boots and his flashing sword before Lord Barak calls a halt to it all.
I noticed that the quick shot of the bare breasts had the face obscured. But in the following close-up of Vera's face you can see a glimpse of a flesh-colored camisole covering her breasts up. Clearly, then, they hired a "body double" ("boob double" in this case) because the actress playing Vera wouldn't do a nude scene or she wanted too much money for it. Just a little something I noticed.
Vera, but those weren't her boobs.
Ok, the hawk reappears now and leads Alee and Marya to Vera. They sneak up to the ridge and watch the camp carefully. A daylight attack is out of the question, so they plan on waiting until dawn to attack. In one interesting shot, Marya absentmindedly wraps her hand around her "razor sharp" sword, showing it to be the dull prop weapon that it really is.
Hmmm...that's a sharp sword.
During the night, however, Mikal and his raiders take Vera and leave quietly. At dawn (ish) the girls attack the trading caravan, unaware that Vera is not there anymore. Marya first runs down with her sword drawn, clearly being way too overzealous. She's quickly confronted by the caravan hands and is caught, her arms held behind her and a knife to her throat.
Up on the ridgeline, Alee sees Marya's stupid dash to capture and shakes her head ruefully. Now she has two women to rescue. Pulling back her bow (a modern compound bow with pulleys and composite arms) she starts flinging explosive-tipped arrows into the camp like she's Rambo or something. A jeep is blown up in a raging fireball, a tent likewise explodes in a shower of shredded canvas and gasoline, and one hapless dude takes a shaft between the shoulder blades, going down hard.
Alee and her bow.
Lord Barak calls a cease fire. He says Vera left in the night and if he gives back Marya, will they both go away and leave them in one piece? Interesting, in most PA movies, the girls would just slaughter all the bad guys and take what they want from the flaming ruins. But, I guess that these traders aren't really bad guys, per say, just merchants with suspect morals. But, then again, who in this new world is any better?
Alee agrees to this and they get their horses back, and some supplies as well. Off her and Marya go again, galloping at top speed, chasing after Mikal and the raiders. They are now far behind, however, so they risk a shortcut through the "Forbidden Zone". This is said to be an area where mutants roam and where normal humans rarely dare to go.
And, indeed, after a short time riding through the area, the girls are attacked by mutants! Well, really more a bunch of poorly-paid Filipino locals given a few American dollars each to grunt and growl and shamble around like gorillas while wearing torn and ripped clothes and greasepaint. Most, if not all wear similar dark brown cloaks (maybe burlap sacks), which speaks to some form of mutant dress code that is at odds with the stated description of their origins. I hate PA movies that have the radioactive mutants all dress alike, and then have them act like mindless ghouls who only crave raw meat and blood. Oh, and most of them have had haircuts lately, which also annoys me.
More mutants, clothes by Old Navy.
Off their horses and on foot now, the girls engage in a series of running swordfights with the mutants, who number about 50 or so. There seems to be no organization to the mutant attacks, just virtual banzai attacks, human waves of yelling, hopping, knuckle-dragging, grubby creatures throwing themselves against the blades and feet of the girls. Many are cut down, but many more take their place and the girls are constantly on the run. A thunderstorm crops up just then, lighting up the battlefield with atmospheric flashes of dull bluish light.
During the fight with the mutants Marya proves herself to be a killing machine, which is a bit of surprise. You wonder who trained her to fight like that, and why a young servant girl of 18 would be trained at all. We see Marya handle her sword with skill, slashing and cutting down the charging mutants with ease. She also has an impressive repertoire of high-arcing leg kicks, open-palm face punches, and once even snaps the neck (!) of a mutant, just like Steven Segal.
During a lull in the fighting, Marya falls into cave opening. Suspiciously not injuring herself despite the ten-foot drop, she calls out to Alee, who comes down with her.
Alee and Marya in the cave.
They make way through the cave, which is rather well-lit. To explain the eerie green light, Alee says that the glow is coming "from the plants", which are not radioactive. Fluorescent plants? She also notes that the "green death" is not as strong as it once was, suggesting that the radiation on the surface has died down enough to allow resettlement. This, by the way, is the film's first hint that the world was destroyed by nuclear war.
Glowing plants? Seriously?
The mutants assault them again, either having discovered that they entered the cave or this is just another band of them. The fighting is again intense, with the close quarters creating bottlenecks and limiting the mutants' routes of attack. The narrow cave tunnel would also seem to be a detriment to the use of the long sword, but we don't see evidence of that. Again, Marya shows some Tifume-like swordsmanship here, putting to death nearly a dozen mutants in a few quick minutes.
Deep in the cave, Alee and Marya then make a most fortuitous discovery, a square metal door set into a wall! Alee explains to Marya and the audience, "The ones from before built whole villages underground." Ok. "From the time of my great-great grandmother." Ok, that's five generations removed from the present day (movie time), so that's roughly 100 to 120 years ago. Ok, that jives with what we see onscreen, the general level of decay and regression of civilization, and the level of technology for the most part.
A flywheel is on the door, but they can't turn it. Alee then finds a keypad (!) by the door and somehow (!) hits the right combination to open it. That makes zero sense, but maybe the doorway lock was so old and corroded that all it took was pounding on the keypad at random to short it out and open the door.
Inside they find a variety of ancient computer terminals on desks and lots of dimly blinking lights (a still-working internal power source, certainly nuclear). An automated security announcement challenges their unauthorized entry, but shorts out quickly in a puff of sparky smoke. This is a military control room of sorts, with a large map of the world on one wall, the type that used to be lit up with armies and battles for the commanders to plot their wars on. The map is dark now, but Alee walks right up to it and begins to tell the tale of the distant past.
Clocks on the wall, note the old school use of "Peking" over "Beijing".
As hinted earlier, Alee knows the old tales about how the "kingdom of the Russia" and the "kingdom of USA" had a great war. And "the great god was very angry and sent the lights from the sky and he destroyed the people with the green fire, all was laid waste and we now all live in penitence for our sins." We then learn that currently in America there are "three kingdoms and the Land of the East" and the total population of the country is "less than what was in one of those cities (on the clock) before the war". Ok, all very cool, nicely done. I can see history regressing to this point after 120 years. I also like the Canticle for Leibowitz-esque descriptions of the kingdoms and tribes of the present day.
Computers, high tech for 1987. I think by this room alone I can date the nuclear war to the late 1980s, as that seems to be where the level of technology stops.
The history lesson over, they start looking around. After just a few seconds of searching, they find a rack of perfectly-preserved M-16 rifles (!). Alee picks one up, and then sifts through a stack of manuals nearby, looking for some instructions on how to use it. As later we see that various raider groups are also armed with M-16s, we can assume that some modern weaponry can still be found in the new world, so we wonder how it is that Alee has never learned how to operate a rifle.
They then find a garage with a number of vehicles. The girls walk up to a Cadillac-Gage V-150 Commando light armored vehicle and start to get excited about the possibilities. It's a four-wheeled, fully-enclosed armored car used by the Filipino Army to chase Muslim insurgents around the southern islands. The V-150 is armed with a powered turret with a single M-2 .50 caliber machinegun and a single M-60 7.62mm machinegun. The Filipinos are about the only people who still use the V-150 operationally. Well, other than the Morrow Project...
A flip of a switch and a roll-up garage-type door opens up. The girls jump in the V-150 and drive off. Whoa, hold on! They just jumped in and drove off? This thing has been sitting down here for 120 years and they can just jump in a drive away in it? After so long unattended, the tires would be flat, the oil would be congealed, the gas would have evaporated, and the battery would be long dead. But we don't have time for any of that, this is a short movie.
They cruise some distance and then stop to rest and talk. They are then suddenly ambushed by another band of mutants (they must still be in the Forbidden Zone) who leap out of the darkness at them. Apparently, Alee has by now figured out how to work the M-16 she took, and Marya has learned how to operate the turret and the M-60 machinegun in it, and between the two of them they manage to slaughter the dozen or so mutants.
Ok, let's leave the girls for a second. While all that was happening, Mikal and his raiders (with the captive Vera) have come across another band of marauders out in the wasteland. This one is led by Lord Jak, as they can tell from a distance by his flag (which is a pretty neat idea, I say). Lord Jak's band is pretty strong, with about a dozen men armed with a variety of weapons, including a few M-16s (see, they are out there still), and driving three classic PA cars and an old Land Rover open-top truck.
Lord Jak, cool eyepatch, too bad his voice sounds like a squeaky gay hairdresser.
That's an awesome car, a tricked out Mustang I think, shame I couldn't find a better picture of it.
They decide to join Lord Jak and his band for the dangerous trip across the "high mountains" to Calcarra, as they are both going in the same direction. From the get-go, the two groups don't like each other. The main problem is that Lord Jak's men are wary of Vera the witch and her legendary powers by association.
We see here that all the Sisters have matching tattoos, though I think that one's a Sharpie tattoo.
They travel a bit together and then stop for a rest. There are a few more fights over the witch, her negative energy seems to be messing with the psyches of the men. Mikal and Lord Jak have to contain their men to keep them from killing each other, and Lord Jak is not happy about it. "That witch is bad news!" the men keep shouting, and they mean it.
Once things calm down, Mikal talks to Vera, and opens up to her. It seems that years ago his older sister ran away from home and was "taken" by the Sisterhood. She had one day realized that she had the spooky mind powers as well, and was run out of town by the superstitious priests. Mikal went to find her, but the Sisterhood refused to let him see her. Ever since then, Mikal has been on this vengeful quest to kill off the Sisterhood. Well, it's more complicated than that, I think he wants to use Vera as a bargaining chip to get his sister back, which is a completely different motivation than just straight revenge. I'm beginning to like Mikal's depth.
Also neat how Mikal doesn't stand over her during this scene, but sits down to talk to her eye-to-eye, another subtle character moment for him.
The next day they keep driving along through the mountains. They stop again to rest and then suddenly, they see the V-150 up on a ridgetop overlooking them! As they stare at this beast in wonder, Mikal recognizes Alee and Marya poking their heads out of the hatches.
Watching from the V-150.
Just about fed up with these two girls chasing him, Mikal goes over to one of Lord Jak's cars. This one is armed with this ultra-cool bank of unguided rockets, looking like a shortened Katushya battery. The rockets are fired one at a time with a simple hand lever, the rockets whooshing out with a little puff of smoke and cordite. The range is too great, however, and the lack of a proper aiming sight makes it nearly impossible to hit the V-150 up on the ridge (and the Filipino Army probably refused to have their vehicle damaged by special effects squibs).
MLS battery, one of the neatest PA car modifications I've ever seen.
The V-150 fires back with grenade mortars. Hmmm...what? Those stubby tubes on the sides of the turret are actually for 40mm smoke grenades or tear gas canisters, not for explosive fragmentation grenades. I'm pretty certain they can't fire anything other than smoke or gas grenades, but I doubt more than a few people who might watch this movie would know that. They also can't be reloaded internally, though we see them fire over and over. Anyway, the grenades burst around the marauder cars, geysers of dirt and grit rain down on the men as they scramble about.
Just smoke grenade launchers.
Realizing that this armored car can crush them at will if they just stand there, the raiders now all take flight. Mikal leads the way on his cycle, and Vera ends up in the front seat of a car, left untied in the rush to flee. The V-150 is in hot pursuit, rumbling down the dirt track after them. Yet another running gun battle now develops, as the V-150 pounds away with those grenades and the MLS car returns fire sporadically. The vehicles all bounce and swerve along the curvy dirt road, throwing up clouds of dust and rocks as they fishtail around the corners. Eventually, the grenades start to find their mark. Two raider cars are hit and explode, their smoking wreckage left behind.
Boom, that's a nice hidden gasoline-bomb buried under three inches of topsoil.
A raider car explodes, the trunk lid flipping through the air.
In the lead raider car, Vera sees her opportunity to escape (or maybe just realizes that all this random exchange of explosives might just get her killed by accident). As the car slows down for a corner, she jumps out and rolls in the dirt. Bouncing up, she dashes back for the safety of the V-150. Seeing this, Mikal whips his cycle around and gives chase, determined to either kill Vera or recapture her. Vera, however, makes it to her friends in time. Up in the turret, Marya pulls the trigger on the M-60, chasing Mikal off with a line of bullets.
Vera running from Mikal, it must be hard to run in that outfit.
The mangled remains of the raider convoy make good its escape when the girls stop for Vera. They are by now very close to the city of Calcarra, which looms like a badly superimposed matte painting over the horizon. They race into the walled city and the doors are closed. The V-150 follows, but pulls up short to watch, they can't bring it inside the town. The girls discuss things and plan on attacking on foot at night.
Calcarra, and yes, I'm just guessing on the spelling.
Calcarra is a large PA fortress town (though the interiors are a reuse of the set for the smaller town and the tavern from earlier) that is run by a bull of a man named Lord Kragg. Kragg has a veritable army of Filipino extras dressed in knock-off military tunics and old WWII-style steel helmets. They are armed with short swords and battleaxes mostly, though there are a few pistols seen. I recognize some of the soldiers as being mutants/townspeople/marauders, I guess they only had a limited number of local men who could spare time from their regular jobs down at the docks for the film shoot.
Lord Kragg, looking like a scraggly biker. And yes, that's the exact same bone-and-teeth necklace that Lord Barak had on earlier, thought no one would notice, eh, mister prop-master?
Remember that the Sisters who were captured at the Battle of Twelve Trees were brought here. We now go to a jail cell where we see that about a dozen Sisters are chained to the walls and suffering from abuse and neglect. Lord Kragg shows them to Lord Jak and boasts of his great power in capturing these "witches" (and seeing how powerful the girls are, especially en mass, it is indeed impressive that Lord Kragg managed to capture so many of them). Lord Jak is more concerned about the war wagon somewhere outside the city walls, but Lord Kragg has a plan for that.
The Sisters in chains, which is a whole other movie.
And since our movie hasn't had enough cheap softcore porn moments yet, we get to see a few gratuitous Sisterhood boobies.
Random Sister boobies, you may now return to your regular movie watching experience.
Ok, now it's nighttime and we see Alee, Vera and Marya sneak into the city. They climb up the wall, slip through the battlements and work their way into the center. No one opposes them, no one even seems to be on guard duty, and they seem to know exactly where and how to gain entrance. Now, we distinctly saw Alee only take one M-16 from the underground base before, but now all three girls have one, plus extra magazines of ammunition. I assume that there were weapons in the V-150, though why is a question.
The girls breach the walls with ease.
The girls then come across an obvious trap; four Sisters tied to poles in the middle of an open courtyard surrounded by high walls. Dutifully, they rush to them and set them free, Alee eye-beam-zapping the bonds off their wrists. The four freed Sisters recover their strength quickly, though they never say a word (speaking roles pay more and I think the film crew spent all the budget on renting that V-150 and getting Alee's hair done every day).
And, of course, it was indeed a trap. A search light snaps on, pinning the seven women in a blinding glare. Three or four dozen soldiers pop up, rattling swords and yelling threats from above. Lord Kragg himself strolls out on to the wall, issuing some smarmy comments to the girls about how they will all be "guests" of his prison soon.
The soldiers must be blind, because it seems they didn't notice that the girls still had three automatic rifles with them. Several volleys of M-16 fire drive the soldiers back from the walls, cutting many of them down. The girls then make a run for it, fighting a pretty one-sided running battle as they go. The soldiers' olive drab shirts and matted chest hair offer little protection from 5.56mm bullets and several dozen of them end up with holes in places where they didn't have holes before.
These are not cheap prop guns shooting barrel squibs, by the way, these are real Filipino Army M-16A2s firing blank rounds, the ejected brass flying out convincingly. These are heavy guns when loaded, and the actress playing Vera in particular has a difficult time firing the weapon on full auto without losing her balance.
The three original members of Mikal's band now jump into the fray. They don't last long, though they do perform better than the Calcarra soldiers, who go down way too easy. All three are riddled with bullets eventually, dying in the dirt. I'll miss John and his shoulder pads, and I thought Jev and Alek had some potential to be more than cardboard cutouts.
Jev and Alek, soon to be RIP.
While that's going on, Marya spies Mikal and gives chase, determined to avenge her brother's death. Mikal, fear in his eyes and quickness in his steps, runs like hell as Marya pursues, firing bursts from her M-16. Eventually, she corners him on a staircase and puts a bullet through his arm, sending him down on his back in agony.
On the stairs, note how Marya holds the rifle by the sling around her arm, which just looks odd.
Marya then seems to have a change of heart. A look of pity comes over her face and she can't bring herself to pull the trigger. She even drops her rifle (!) and walks off, leaving Mikal befuddled and curious. Me too, because I don't see why she didn't shoot him. The man did kill her brother, even though he didn't really mean or want to. Maybe sometime off-screen Vera told Marya about her conversation with Mikal, and about how he seemed to be more than just a bloody-handed raider. Who knows, but it was a strange scene.
Ok, all the girls make it to the jail, where there are still about eight or so more Sisters still chained up. Entering, they lock the door behind them as Lord Kragg leads a company of soldiers to besiege them. Things are looking grim; the girls are almost out of M-16 ammo, they are trapped in a room with no other way out, and the soldiers are pounding on the door with a crude battering ram.
Just then, a glowing ball of light appears in the room! It slowly coalesces into the form of an old woman dressed like a Catholic nun. This is the "Reverend Mother", the spiritual leader of the Sisterhood, who clearly has some seriously spooky paranormal powers going on.
The Reverend Mother.
In a matronly soothing voice the Reverend Mother gently admonishes Alee and Vera about their use of the rifles, asking if they have abandoned the old and pure ways of the Sisterhood. She says that they should throw them down and trust in her to get them out of this sticky situation. The girls lay the guns down and all of them pay homage to the Reverend Mother, who shows more of her spooky powers by mentally snapping all the chains of the remaining captives and setting them all free.
Looking in awe, though I wonder about the backlighting, as I thought they were facing the Reverend Mother.
Just then the soldiers bang the door down and make to rush in. The blinding light from the apparition forces them back, and as they cower in fear and wonder, all the girls in the room suddenly fade out and disappear! Teleportation! Cool!
All that's left is an empty room.
Our movie ends on an even stranger note. We see Mikal on his bike coming to a stop out in the wilderness again. Note he doesn't seem to be injured in any way, his arm looks normal, though I guess before it really was unclear just where he got shot, or even if he just took some shrapnel from a near miss. Anyway, he's looking up at a ridgeline as a column of the Sisters walk slowly away from the city. In turn, we see Alee, Vera and Marya glance down at Mikal, each girl casting a look of either sad approval or shame at him before turning away. Marya's look is especially interesting, as it seems to convey almost shame at her actions, which needs some more thought.
We close with an amazingly out-of-place voice-over (the first in the movie) as Mikal tells us that he's found a new appreciation for the Sisterhood and believes now that "magic" is the only way for this ravaged land to heal. Ok, works for me. Bring on the sequel.
Written in August 2007 by Nathan Decker and edited by Darci Sharver.
comments powered by Disqus
that's between you and the vengeful wrath of your personal god...