Running Time: 102 minutes
Written and directed by: Hannah Barlow and Kane Senes
Featuring: Aisha Dee, Hannah Barlow, Emily De Margheriti, Daniel Monks, Yerin Ha and Lucy Barrett
Sissy: “I am loved, I am special, I am enough.”
Recently released on DVD is the independent horror movie “Sissy” (2022), a movie that uses the conceit of social media and influencers to harness a plot that is at once humorous and horrifying especially when taking childhood trauma into account and the meaning behind being popular, likeable and what that looks like to an online audience as opposed to actual real life friends and acquaintances. I was not sure what to expect going into it
Interestingly this is the second movie of 2022 to be released that deals directly with social media and influencers with the excellent “Bodies, Bodies, Bodies” (2022) making waves at the box office that had at its heart a party that ends in quite a bit of death. What is interesting is that both movies while having similar themes attack them in the genre of horror as well as being very humorous at times. The other element that these movies have in common are female filmmakers and these are there their second features.
“Sissy” is based around Cecilia (Aisha Dee) a successful social media influencer who appears to have it all. Living the dream as an independent and modern millennial woman, nothing can stand in Cecilia’s way of feeling special. That is, until she reunites with her ex-best friend, Emma (Hannah Barlow), from her pre-teen years after over a decade of separation. Cecilia and Emma had plans to grow old together and never let anything come between them until Alex (Emily De Margheriti) came into the picture. And even years later, cattiness is still at the forefront of their interactions. During Emma’s bachelorette party get-away at a remote cabin in the mountains, Alex proceeds to make Cecilia’s weekend a living nightmare. Unfortunately, it doesn’t bode well for the entire party. The narrative is pretty straight forward as is the plot, of course as the viewer you are constantly wondering will she get caught or get away with it. The storytelling paints all the characters almost all one way, that is they fit into archetypical types that we have seen before.
Written and directed by Hannah Barlow and Kane Senes who are to be fairly inexperienced have created something that suits the horror genre very well. The way “Sissy” unfolds with a plot and narrative that seems deceptively simple is a masterclass in genre low budget filmmaking especially one that deals with a main character that could have been written and portrayed as something else entirely, unsympathetic as well as quite unlikeable. However there is a line line operating here that makes not only what Sissy ends up doing acceptable but by the conclusion you are on her side for what she has been carrying out which is of course ridiculous but the filmmakers have carried out their work very well. Also smartly the filmmakers have kept the locations to a minimal which also enhances the look of the movie, while at the same time illustrating this world, it also highlights the outside world and being in Australia it looks just perfect.
“Sissy” is led by a great and perfectly pitched performance by Aisha Dee who for a young actor seems to know this person, although growing up in the social media age she has probably seen or even encountered this type of people. Dee who is probably more experienced than the actual filmmakers so I would think knows how to put something like this together and again if her performance is off even a little the audience will not buy her actions, motivations or her fate at the end of the movie. The rest of the cast have a slightly easier job in that they have to be passive aggressive, mean or borderline bullying which they all do well, of course they are all broadly written and performed, there is little depth but that is normally the case for perceived victims within the genre.
From the very beginning of “Sissy” in its opening sequence we see Cecilia who appears to have it all in terms of her online presentation, however it is clear in reality it’s all a façade. After a broadcast to over 200,000 followers, requesting them to repeat her coined mantra, “I am loved, I am special, I am enough,” we then see how she really lives off camera. She lives alone in a cluttered apartment, spends time eating terrible food while basking in reality TV, and she frequently checks her phone for validation from her fan base. All this happens in between nightmares from a troubling accident that awakens Cecilia from her sleep. For even the most put-together social media influencer, all isn’t what it seems.
There are a few themes operating within “Sissy” one of which is the idea of bullying which of course is a timeless concept especially in dealing with adolescence and the portrayal of female friendships on screen. This is of course a horror movie which means that the deeper themes are a little buried within the action, violence and yes humour, it does require some digging but the fact that this bullying idea is also matched with how people portray themselves on social media for good and bad which as different platforms are aging this is a theme that will become only more important and relevant. Going into “Sissy” I was not sure what to expect but I was pleasantly surprised by almost everything about it which is a recommendation to view it.
“Sissy” is not a perfect movie of course but it does an admirable job with some complex ideas but it is set firmly within the horror genre, it is not a drama so there are shortcuts taken to link plot to narrative, not everything is well thought out but it makes up for that with a great central performance as well as some thinly drawn characters to up the ante on the violence.