Don't be a Sissy
We are back with another horror movie review to kick off your 2023. Our Awful Advent and KO-Ween 31 days of Halloween collections featured horror classics. This month, I decided to try and catch up on some more recent movies from streaming sites. It’s easy for these films to pass you by. They release under the radar and you really need to seek them out. With that in mind, today we will be taking a look at Shudder original Aussie comedy horror Sissy.
Written and directed by Hannah Barlow and Kane Senes. This movie comes across as horror for the TikTok generation. Much like the recent Bodies, Bodies, Bodies. Sissy uses the medium of social media as something of a satirical social commentary. Influencer Cecilia bumps into Emma, a friend she hasn’t seen for years. Accepting an invitation to spend a hen party getaway with her. Cecilia doesn’t realise that she is about to open a bunch of old wounds from her past. Without further ado, let’s take a look.
As with a lot of recent horror, Sissy has a fairly simple ending. There are still a few events worth explaining. We have done just that in our Sissy Ending Explained article. Obviously our Ending Explained features are not spoiler free. If you haven’t watched the movie yet, carry on reading our spoiler free review. If you decide to check the movie out, come back, take a look and see what you think.
Sissy follows the story of social media influencer Cecilia (Aisha Dee). Cecilia splits her time between making inspirational videos for her followers. Lazing on her couch and eating pizza. Heading to the pharmacy to pick up sanitary supplies. Cecilia spots someone she recognises. It is Emma (Hannah Barlow); her former best friend from school. Hoping to avoid her, Cecilia heads to a different checkout. Despite her efforts, Emma approaches her from behind.
Delighted to see her childhood best friend. Emma invites Cecilia to come to her engagement party. Cecilia initially refuses before reluctantly agreeing. Rekindling their friendship at the engagement party. Cecilia and Emma have a great time. Emma invites her to come on her Hen party weekend. Cecilia agrees and leaves the party. On her way home she makes a detour to collect a time capsule the pair buried years before.
On the way to the hen party, Cecilia finds out that an unexpected guest will be there. A girl called Alex (Emily De Margheriti) that bullied Cecilia years before. Horrified at the news, Cecilia takes her eyes off the road and accidentally hits a Kangaroo. The news of Alex being there has reawakened a trauma in Cecilia. Little do the group know, the trauma will impact them all in one way or another.
Man does Australia ever put out some awesome horror? Naturally, they also put out some dog shit as well. For the most part, however, Australia has an amazing pedigree. They have a real knack for gruesome and gory torture porn. They also knock it out of the park when it comes to comedy horror. Sissy is somewhere in between those two genres. We have recently reviewed Better Watch Out, The Loved Ones and Lake Mungo. All three are amazing and they are just the tip of the Australian Horror iceberg. Sissy shares much in common with the aforementioned The Loved Ones.
It’s a visceral mix of brutal gore, horrific kills and moments of pure hilarity. Featuring a charismatic lead character. Sissy dares you to not like, and relate, to our protagonist. Given that many have been victims of bullying. This is a movie that is going to test the morals of certain viewers. As the situation escalates. The conflicted reality of Sissy makes you question who to root for. It’s fantastic stuff! The character driven plot keeps you thoroughly engaged for much of its run.
The comedy element here is front and centre. Sissy is as much a comedy as it is a horror. Hannah Barlow frames events with a biting, satirical, wit. Sissy pokes gentle fun at the perpetually online generations of recent years. Cecilia is as much of a hypocrite as any real life influencer. She is the same as all the people you see extolling the virtues of certain lifestyles on social media. She portrays the perfect image of positivity for her followers. Offering self help tips and motivational quotes. She only breaks from her plastic façade to promote pointless products.
Cecilia’s truth is far different from what she shows. Behind the camera she is an insecure slob. Lazing around her messy flat, she eats pizza and melts into the sofa. The very antithesis of what she presents to her viewers. Cecilia can’t actually even help herself in the most basic ways. She doesn’t even have enough foresight to have sanitary products in the home. When she is caught out, Cecilia has to head to the store.
The comedy continues throughout the movie. Well placed camera shots put us into Cecilia’s shoes. She is overwhelmed and the viewer is supposed to know it. The friend group she has suddenly been thrust into seem even more vapid than her. They are obsessed with drama and gossip. The only thing they can focus on are reality shows. The same shows that have been making zombies of people for the past 20 years. Cecilia’s voice is constantly drowned out and it is as if she doesn’t exist. It’s genuinely hilarious stuff and her “fish out of water” demeanour makes for a bundle of laughs.
When the kills get going, the gore comes in buckets. Heads are crushed, people are thrown off cliffs, a face is caved in. It is brutally bloody stuff but it is all presented with tongue in cheek. Comedic camera shots are used to highlight the victim’s fate. In a scene that wouldn’t feel out of place in a slapstick comedy. A body tumbles for what seems like an eternity in a morbidly comical manner. Another scene sees the viewer forced to endure every painful second of a meeting between a head and a wheel. Despite how gruesome these parts are, you will find yourself laughing.
It’s a difficult task to marry comedy with ultra violence. Many movies fail at it completely. As I mentioned earlier, Sissy does a brilliant job here, much like The Loved Ones. A comedic soundtrack helps to lighten the mood as our protagonist attempts to find her zen. Cecilia remains completely likeable, even as she is quickly losing her marbles. She is always presented in a sympathetic manner.
Members of Emma’s friend group work to add to the comedy. Alex is brutally scathing in her judgement of Cecilia. Something has clearly happened between the pair in the past. Alex is unwilling to forget and wants to make Cecilia’s life hell. We see flashbacks of the kid’s childhood. As the film goes on, we are made privy to events that took place. Cecilia’s past history with Alex becomes clear making the group further ostracise her.
Friends Jamie and Tracey think Cecilia is strange. They don’t trust her and believe she is hiding something. Criticisms of Cecilia’s influencer lifestyle come thick and fast. Barlow and Senes’ writing perhaps engages in a little targeted satirical dart throwing. Jamie and Tracey point out that she is basically taking advantage of people. It doesn’t help that Emma’s fiancée is training to become a psychologist. The group see Cecilia as a charlatan feeding off of other’s misery.
It’s hilarious stuff and very apt for 2023. This is a film that is acutely aware of the generation of influencer obsession we live in. The good and the bad that comes from self help gurus is put on full show. Cecilia needs the praise of her followers to help her feel safe when the group is cruel to her. Ironically, it is her fans that are helping Cecilia, not the techniques she speaks about. I would argue that this slight finger poking at Gen Z is done with a lot more nuance than most other films. It certainly works a lot better than Bodies, Bodies, Bodies. This is clever satire. It also feels very harmless in its laughing at the tendencies of us millennials and zoomers.
It is worth pointing out, given all of the above, that some may be put off by the style. As with Bodies, Bodies, Bodies, some people will fail to see the irony. They won’t realise it is satirical and may find the movie hard to enjoy. If you are averse to all things modern then you will likely find a lot of Sissy difficult to enjoy.
The friend group is obnoxious. They are obsessed with gossip and reality TV shows. Most people would go out of their way to avoid people like this. They are bitchy, quick to bully, and have no depth of character. All of this is deliberate and designed to make you sympathise with Cecilia. Cecilia acts as an avatar for the viewer. She feels out of place in much the same way many people watching will. Still, it has to be said that some will simply dislike the portrayal of the characters. They will potentially find it too much to overlook and it will impact their enjoyment.
It also bears mention that this is a comedy horror. The comedy, as I have talked about previously, is paramount. It is unrelenting and a major part of the film. Some horror fans strongly dislike horror comedy and Sissy will be no exception. The masses of gore and engaging story will likely not be enough for some. I feel as though the movie absolutely runs too long, as well. It clocks in at 102 minute and feels like it is dragging its feet after awhile. I think shaving 20 minutes off would have lead to a much tighter production. There are redundant scenes that add little to the overall film. I was, unfortunately, beginning to lose interest as the final 20 minutes rolled in.
Sissy has assembled a fantastically diverse cast. Featuring differently abled performers and a mix of races. Sissy places LGBTQ characters centre stage. This is a brilliant example of how horror can lead the way when it comes to progressive productions. Horror fans are some of the best around and I am sure the vast majority will welcome this kind of diversity. There really isn’t a weak performance in the entire film. Aisha Dee, as Cecilia, stands out. She is absolutely fantastic and I would love to see her more in the future. She has excellent comedy timing. Dee’s delivery is spot on and she portrays a range of emotions equally well. I especially enjoyed her later scenes as she begins to mentally unwind.
Hannah Barlow, as Emma, is also fantastic. Obviously extremely talented, Barlow also directed and scripted Sissy. On top of that, she performed and wrote songs for the film. A great all round performance. It is far above that of many who spread themselves too thin on a movie set. Daniel Monks is great fun as the bitchy and loud Jamie. Emily De Margheriti is suitably wicked as bully Alex. Everyone else sort of fades into the background a little. Not bad by any means but less noteworthy.
Direction is fantastic. Camera shots are used expertly to capture Cecilia’s awkwardness. You really relate to her sense of discomfort. Much of that is down to clever use of closeups and a strong focus on facial expressions. Kills are always presented in a comic and brutal manner. Flashbacks are used effectively to unravel the history between characters. The social media aspect is well integrated. Likes and messages are highlighted on screen relating Cecilia’s dependency on her fans. It’s all really well done. Cinematography is fine. This isn’t a particularly great looking movie. There is a bit of a low budget feel to it. It’s not a huge problem, though, and doesn’t impact things too much.
As I mentioned above, the movie is too long but that’s a fairly minor complaint. It’s not the most pure horror movie around. The comedy maybe takes away from the scares a little. This is a horror comedy, though, so that is to be expected. All in all, these aren’t particularly big issues. This is another fantastic Aussie horror. While not quite up there with The Loved Ones. Sissy is a huge amount of fun and well worth a watch.
Sissy is a tremendously fun Aussie comedy horror. Focusing on a pair of friends reuniting after a number of years. A blast from the past in the form of a character's childhood bully brings back traumatic memories and begins a catastrophic sequence of events. Funny, brutally violent, and featuring a genuinely engaging plot. Sissy continues Australia's history of fantastic horror. Perhaps running a bit long. The excellent cast and brilliant performances from lead actors Aisha Dee and Hannah Barlow keep you hooked. Some may dislike the social media references and satirical portrayal of modern youth. Others will likely love the witty references and creative kills. Absolutely worth a watch, Sissy is excellent.