Director: George Archainbaud
So, I became aware of this movie via the You Must Remember This podcast during an episode discussing the ill-fated Peg Entwistle, the actress who famously threw herself from the H in the "Hollywood" sign when her career stalled. I was also aware this was one of several pre-Thin Man films in which Myrna Loy (praise be her name) appears as an Asian character/ person of mixed heritage.*
It's a tight hour-long movie, and more thriller than horror, although there's quasi/ possibly supernatural elements.
The movie was only semi-available for a while, then in the Internet Archive and other places in pieces, but now it's at Criterion and looks and sounds terrific.
Here's your story: a group of former sorority pals are still in touch, writing chain letters (this is 1932 and facebook is not a thing). At some point, one of them decided to start reaching out to a famed Yogi/ Swami to get her horoscope, and suggested all of the girls do the same. But as the horoscopes trickle in, they predict death and chaos. We see one of the girls, a sister-act circus acrobat, learn someone will die in her act, and she immediately drops her sister to her death, and goes mad. Entwistle's characters kills her husband with a knife, I believe, and she's out of her only performance well before the half-way mark.
As more members of the friend circle are picked off, we learn there's a mysterious and exotic beauty (Myrna Loy) paired with the Swami, but she's pulling the strings using some form of hypnosis.
It's a fascinating, exploitative film relying on an absurd premise and set-up. featuring a largely female cast - thrusting Irene Dunne into the lead as a widower who is neither overly skeptical nor biting on the power of the stars hook, line and sinker. It's also kind of sexy in that pre-Code manner of suggesting lots of sex off-screen as Loy's character bewitches dudes who are useful to her.
The only real mystery is the "why" of the murders and chaos. And, as it turns out, we never really, fully find out. But it seems the sorority had been responsible for making Loy's life hell at the school, and forced her to leave after working and scraping to get in and afford it. A "half-caste", she's half "Hindu" and half-Anglo, and fits in with neither. Although the movie's most eye-poppingly racist moment isn't the reveal that the women we've been so worried about were maybe terrible people in college. It's when the cop helping them out describes Loy's character's ethnicity.
The movie's brief run-time means we don't get to all 13 women, but that would probably feel repetitive as a film, anyway. It also gets to the point and wraps up within seconds.
Anyway - it's a product of it's time, but could be remade now with no problem.
I looked into the book it's based on, and it sounds like an absolutely crazy ride. I may check it out.
*this is Pre-Code, but nonetheless, implying or indicating romantic or sexual relations between people of different ethnicities was frowned upon (I know) unless the actors were both white and one was playing a different race (I KNOW). It's part of how you wind up decades later with John Wayne as Ghengis Khan