March 12th, 2022
STARRING: AISHA DEE, HANNAH BARLOW, EMILY DE MARGHERETI, YERIN HA
DIRECTED BY: HANNAH BARLOW, KANE SENES
AMovieGuy.com’s RATING: 3 STARS (Out of 4)
The very concept of an influencer on social media will never not be weird. Not that I don’t understand it. I get that it’s a new outlet of marketing for a company, it’s just wild that random people can become a voice in a field they have zero professional expertise in. In Sissy, a 30-something woman has made her career in making Instagram videos about being positive, reminding people to be their best, and helping come up with mantras that will inspire those who watch. When Sissy reconnects with old friend Emma, her pleasant life of feeling positive begins to crumble, as the past triggers old trauma, and Sissy begins to reveal her true, not so steady self. Sissy is a modern mixture of obsession being turned to horror and a realization that sometimes the term “best friends forever” can be taken much too far.
The lead performance as Sissy- or as she wants to be called Cecelia- is from the scene stealing Aisha Dee. We meet Cecelia making her newest YouTube video, telling the world to feel happy, work on ones self worth, and smile. Later on at the drugstore, Cecelia bumps into Emma (played by director Hannah Barlow), her old friend from when she was 10. We see flashbacks of home made videos of their younger selves, laughing, singing, telling one another that they would always be friends. Now, Emma wants to invite Cecelia to her bachelorette party weekend. There’s trepidation at first, but she tells herself to practice what she preaches, to get out there and stay positive. The big problem is that Cecelia has an ugly history with Emma’s friend Alex (Emily De Margheriti) and with her fears of embarrassment on high alert, Cissy begins to act a bit erratic.
Although there is a legitimate argument that Sissy is not the right movie for commentary on mental health, the writing and directing from Barlow and Kane Senes certainly knows that this is a horror movie, and the transformation of Sissy into a cold killer is organic. The writing is what works most, capturing all angles of the way being bullied can change your outlook on life, the reality that some friendships are not meant to work out, and a hilarious build up of violence that could be mistaken as accidents. It pulls together well as a horror movie, with consistently great gore effects, and Sissy does not skimp on any of that.
A majority of the success begins with lead Aisha Dee, who carries the film on her shoulders as the title character, bouncing perfectly between stable, unstable, and being unlucky. When she agrees to approach Alex to extend an olive branch of forgiveness, there’s obviously still animosity leftover. The two bicker and it’s in this moment where Sissy finally hits her breaking point for not being accepted, not being forgiven, and now the true personality comes out. It’s within this killing rampage where the very character of Sissy feels unique. Some of the kills are not just slash and gore but moments of bad fate. A guest accidentally trips himself over a cliff when Sissy confronts him, “it was an accident, I swear”, pleads the antihero, and there’s an argument to be made that some are not her fault, but then the bodies pile up…
There are a few issues to knit-pick at Sissy for, where it’s the usual too long and various characters act more like actors reading lines instead of natural. All of that stuff goes away when the genre beats kick in. It’s ultimately another horror hit from Australian cinema, mixing in the gore of an old school Friday the 13th, a similar Cabin Fever style of entrapment, and a disturbing bit of Single White Female for the social media age. Poor Sissy just wants to be liked and loved by everyone. Her character is a delightfully terrifying addition to the history of great slashers, brought to life by Aisha Dee, in what should be one of the big surprises for the Midnighters category in SXSW. Sissy’s not so bad, she just really needs you to like her, that should be easy. You’ll just have to find out for yourself.
SISSY IS PLAYING AT SXSW MARCH 13TH & 16TH
Written by: Leo Brady