FrightFest review – Mater Superior (Mother Superior)
1975. Sigrun Fink (Isabella Händler) is interviewed by unseen cops about a tragedy she’s been involved in, and flashbacks dole out the story. Born in 1944 in a Nazi facility where Aryan women were mated with SS officers and the like to keep the faltering master race going, Sigrun has grown up knowing little about her birth parents. She takes a job as live-in nurse at a rambling, chilly country estate in Austria, caring for imperious eccentric Baroness Heidenreich (Inge Maux), who was once the directress of the breeding program – but is also high up in a secret society of powerful pagan women. Sigrun hopes to find information in the archives the Baroness has kept but also gets caught up in the ancient conspiracy and drawn deeper into the Baroness’ strange world.
Writer-director Marie Alice Wolfsahn’s debut feature is notably trim (at a welcome 71 minutes) and gorgeously rendered in widescreen, with striking compositions and images throughout – the glimpses of pagan ritual are original and primal at the same time, a key scene delivers the archetypal paperback gothic cover of a woman fleeing an old house at night with a single light burning in a window, there’s a shocking bit with a literal headless chicken and even the end credits (in the style of redacted Nazi files) are imaginative. Though minion Otto (Jochen Nickel), who comes in handy for stuffing things, and reporter Wilfried (Tim Werths), who has his own agenda for digging, are on the fringes of the story, men are mostly as offscreen as the patronising, sexist cops who ask the questions. This is all about Sigrun and the Baroness, and Händler and Maux are a great double-act, with a shifting balance of power between them and a strange mismatch of intentions – Sigrun wants information and maybe revenge, but the Baroness sees the young blonde as a success for her breeding program and templar cult.
The last fillip is perhaps too on the nose in horror movie terms (it’s a twist that’s been overused in the genre) but sets up a splendidly ambiguous sequence that’s triumphant yet terrifying with the acknowledgement that the Templars of the Blood Moon are still rising to power.
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