Teen best friends Cecilia and Emma, after a decade run into each other. Cecilia is invited on Emma’s bachelorette weekend where she gets stuck in a remote cabin with her high school bully with a taste for revenge.
When confronted with past trauma, with your whole life’s work on the line, some might resort to desperate measures to ensure that everything remains intact. The co-directing and co-writing team of Hannah Barlow and Kane Senes brought this idea to life in “Sissy”, which made its Canadian premiere at Fantasia Festival. You’ll discover to which extent one would go to ensure that everything she has worked for, professionally and mentally, is not thrown down the drain; no matter the bloody cost.
Cecelia (an incredibly PERFECT Aisha Dee) is a mental health advocate who has amassed an impressive 200 000 followers on social media. While running an errand at the drugstore, she accidentally bumps into Emma (co-director and co-star, Hannah Barlow), her childhood BFF whom she hadn’t seen in over a decade. Emma invites her to her engagement party as well as a small getaway in the woods for the weekend. Upon their arrival, Cecelia is absolutely stunned to discover that the destination of their momentary escape is at a place owned by her childhood nemesis, Alex (a phenomenally credible Emily De Margheriti). Cecelia, who used to go by the nickname of Sissy, is mentally tormented by their host to the point where their traumatic past bubbles into an incontrollable eruption from which there will be no point of return. Time to take a deep breath in, and a very long breath out.
The Barlow/Senes team (real-life couple, by the way) took the Fantasia audience by storm, in downtown Montreal. “Sissy” starts off on what seems like a dramatic comedy aimed at teen girls, where even the soundtrack of the first half of the film matches the glitter of the ladies’ nail polish. The mood rapidly and violently transitions into a surprisingly ruthless, gory and merciless slasher tale that takes no prisoners. The co-directors demonstrate impressive directorial techniques in numerous aspects of cinema, whether it be from creative scene transitions, to uncomfortably close camera shots in awkward conversations, to slowing the pace down to just the right speed to truly appreciate an unexpectedly gruesome slaying. They also seem to demonstrate their love for the Giallo subgenre of horror with very artsy camera shots as well as some background highlights involving bright, neon colors.
The mental abuse dished out by De Margheriti’s character will undoubtedly force some viewers to clench their teeth in anger and compel others to get up and storm out of the room. That’s how genuinely credible she is. The entire cast, as a matter of fact, is marvellously entertaining, from the most secondary to the brilliant star of the film, Aisha Dee. It cannot be stressed enough how much she flawlessly hits it out of the ballpark in her interpretation of Cecelia form beginning to end. From every range of emotion displayed onscreen, for better or worse, she is Cecelia. She is, in fact, so convincing in her desperation to both utilize her own mental health techniques and cover her tracks as to the chaos that will ensue, that the audience might keep rocking back and forth as to who is the true protagonist to be rooting for.
From the horror aspect of things, it has to be highlighted, and is truly appreciated for the viewers, as to how the co-directors used a minimal amount of CGI and opted for mostly practical effects that were ridiculously impressive and will evoke cries of awe. After the Fantasia screening, during the Q & A, it was revealed that they were lucky enough to work with “the Tom Savini of Australia” for practical effects, who was always willing and enthusiastic for any and every kill scene that was presented to him. His passion was definitely transmitted through his work as viewers will surely be talking about the kills from this movie for a while, one in particular involving a car and a skull.
With a solid ending that you won’t see coming, Hannah Barlow and Kane Senes tie this beautifully brutal gift of a slasher film with a shocking bow that’ll have the audience laughing as the credits roll. The impressive directing, clever screenplay, immaculate acting and realistic practical effects made “Sissy” one of the top films so far presented at the 2022 edition of Fantasia Festival and receives a deserving 8.5/10.