Sissy made it’s world premiere at this year’s SXSW film festival, and it’s been picked up by Shudder. This comedy-horror film about a wellness influencer gone murderous is absolutely a welcome addition to the queer slasher genre.
Cecilia is a fairly successful wellness influencer. She’s got 200,000 followers who love to watch her talk about meditation, mindfulness, and face masks. She lives for the comments telling her how meaningful her posts are. She does this from a tidied up corner of her messy apartment – beyond the ring lights, she’s got dishes stacked in the sink and mess everywhere.
When Cecilia (Aisha Dee) sees an old middle school friend at the pharmacy, she tries hard not to be seen. The friend, Emma (Hannah Barlow), seems delighted to see her, and invites her along to her engagement party and weekend getaway. Cecilia accepts this invitation, and nervously tags along. It’s clear that despite all her followers, and the dopamine rush social media gives her, she is lonely and unhappy, and she longs to feel like she really belongs.
Unfortunately for Cecilia, there’s one old friend on the weekend getaway who really doesn’t want to see her – Alex (Emily De Margheriti). Alex bullied Cecilia in middle school and “took Emma away from her”. In an act of middle school revenge, Cecilia inflicted a trauma upon Alex. These middle school flashbacks are shown in dreamy sequences, a group of girls in matching dresses calling Cecilia – aka Sissy – a sissy, taunting her and pushing her over the edge.
Cecilia has a romanticized version of the past, and though she had tried to move on and better herself, once Emma is back in her life, the past has a firm grip on her. She so badly wants to be the person she presents herself as online, but she’s just not. She struggles with confidence, depression, and anxiety, and what should be a fun weekend getaway becomes an absolute nightmare for everyone involved.
Sissy has a small core cast of 5. Writer and director Hannah Barlow also plays Emma, and the main players are Emma’s group of friends and her fiancée, Fran (Lucy Barrett). The main characters are mostly queer — it would appear that there’s only one cisgender straight man in the whole film. Aisha Dee is absolutely incredible as the deeply effed-up Cecilia; there are some scenes where you might genuinely feel for her, and some scenes where you’ll genuinely be scared of her.
While Cecilia at times seems like someone who is really struggling, she is also someone who does terrible things. The first act of the film builds up the viewer’s relationship with Cecilia, and makes her seem like someone you can sympathize with. Cecilia watches home videos of her and Emma as children, singing together and talking about the future (these sequences are much more effective than the flashback scenes). Cecilia’s nostalgia is sweet, and it makes it all the more jarring when things start going haywire. Alex, the former bully, repeatedly calls Cecilia a psychopath, and at first, you might not want to believe Alex. It’s easy to believe that Cecilia wants to move forward and heal from the past.
Cecilia might just actually be a psychopath, or she might be someone who is really deeply troubled. Sissy isn’t so interested in exploring that question, because at about half way through the film, it takes a turn for the violent. From the first scene, Sissy is darkly comedic, and throughout the film, this dark comedy is perfectly balanced with the very real themes underneath.
Sissy is not afraid of gore, from the moment the kills start right up until the brutal ending. The very first kill happens when the group hits a kangaroo and runs back over it – it’s gross, but don’t worry, the worst is yet to come! Sissy blends this brutality with fun and camp in a way that might make you cringe, but you’ll be laughing the whole time.
SXSW takes place from March 11-March 20. Tickets can be purchased here.
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