Sissy (2022) is Social Media Horror with Incisive Wit
First Non-Festival Release: September 29, 2022 (Digital/Streaming Platforms)
Director: Hannah Barlow, Kane Senes
Writer: Hannah Barlow, Kane Senes
Runtime: 102 Minutes
Starring: Aishe Dee, Hannah Barlow, Emily De Margheriti
Where to Watch: Check out where to find it here
Childhood best friends that drifted apart are reunited in a chance encounter at a drug store. Cecelia (Aisha Dee) is a wellness influencer who has used her platform to spread messages of kindness and self-forgiveness. So, when Emma (Hannah Barlow) invites her to a bachelorette party in the woods, Cecelia is taken aback but accepts out of politeness and the idea of truly reconnecting. It isn’t until they arrive that Cecelia learns that her childhood bully Alex (Emily De Margheriti) will be hosting, and that Alex still has not forgiven Cecelia for a childhood accident that left her scarred after all these years.
Sharp satirical wit and rambunctiously gory kills make Sissy a fun yet socially conscious roasting of influencer culture.
Traumatic events and bullying are often used as motivators in horror films, Sissy takes this concept to a new level highlighting trauma the bullied inflicted on their bully when pushed too far. The triad of Cecelia, Alex, and Emma highlights an interesting dynamic of female friendships and social hierarchy, both in their youth and adulthood. While Cecelia wants to assure Emma that they are friends, Alex wants to assert dominance by suggesting otherwise. Emma is both of their friends but never sticks up for Cecelia, acting as a bystander to the tragedy that unfolds. Alex’s constant belittling of Cecelia causes the more introverted of the two to retaliate resulting in something that scars all three in different ways for the rest of their lives.
In adulthood, these same dynamics re-emerge when the three are in the same room together. Alex resorts to putting Cecelia down, Emma retreats playing both sides to quell their disputes, and Cecelia seeks to disengage without fully standing up for herself. Of all these women, however, the most insidious is Emma. Her inaction and eagerness to be liked causes her to put both of her friends in situations that will clearly make them uncomfortable. Alex is forced to host someone who scarred her for life at a young age and Cecelia is brought to her childhood bully’s home with no way of retreating. And the worst part is neither are informed! While they all have their role to play, Emma’s is the most disappointing and easily avoided.
Fakeness on social media, particularly by disingenuous influencers, is often skewered in horror as well. Cecelia has taken much time to learn and grow from her childhood mistakes as one would hope. Her platform as a wellness influencer allows her to spread messages of kindness, motivation, and self-forgiveness. It’s clear, however, that Cecilia is disconnected from her own advice. She uses her methods to calm herself whenever Alex jabs at her to the crew, but they don’t strengthen her resolve to make it through the weekend.
Her spiral emboldens her to kill the bridal party over the course of the weekend and find a way to paint herself as the victim. Through carefully curated posts and contextless videos, Cecelia manages to frame Alex for the murders she commits. Of course, much of this has to do with Alex’s accidental killing of Hannah, which Cecelia records, but as Alex is about to finish her off a police officer intervenes. By the end, she is selling her own book detailing her survival efforts with a smile. While it’s easy to root for Cecelia is some regards, moments like this make it hard to fully get behind her, which makes her such a compelling protagonist. Additionally, it’s this sort of capitalizing on victimization that makes Sissy so special and timely.
The cast is an absolute delight in embodying their over-the-top characters. None are as beautifully unhinged as Aisha Dee in the leading role. Dee explores Cecelia’s motivations in a human way while still highlighting her tumultuous mental decline. Much of this comes through in her vocal choices and general control of her body since Cecilia clings to her mental faculties through mantras and grounding exercises. Her ticks shine through and eventually culminate in a sick and twisted finale that ties the central themes of the film together. Other highlights include Emily De Margheriti as the vindictive Alex and Daniel Monks as the notoriously fake Jamie.
While it does have plenty to say, Sissy knows first and foremost that it is a horror film and that it needs to deliver on the slasher elements it promises. And Sissy delivers. Cecelia cannot emerge from this film without getting coated in buckets of blood. Full of memorable and exciting kill sequences, the creative team not only knows how to craft a suspenseful scene, but one filled with plenty of gross out gore to catch the audience off guard. The effects work can get a little goofy at times, but that is part of the charm. The film doesn’t take itself seriously, so there isn’t much need to take away from the clearly cartoonish gore effects in a scene or two.
Successfully merging several subgenres of horror, Sissy captivates with its off-beat humor and entertaining story. Tonally light yet subversive, this Australian horror comedy revels in its silly premise and delights its audience by not taking itself too seriously. Drawing inspiration from several great horror movies of the past, Sissy also manages to carve out its own path with its unique messaging on influencer and greater social media culture. Some might say it reads as a deluded fantasy of an insecure person who suffered terrible bullying. It is and they are right, but that is what makes it endearing. Sissy isn’t afraid to challenge its audience and that’s what makes it worth following to see more.
Overall Score? 7.5/10