Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Channeling excellent female-driven horror thrillers like Office Killer and Sound of Violence, Sissy delivers gory horror kills while weaving in dark humor. It delivers a pointed commentary on social media culture, as well as bullying and psychological torment. The Bold Type star Aisha Dee leads an ensemble cast, and she breaks the mold by delivering one of 2022’s best performances thus far. An almost whimsical score helps to pad this satirical tale with an atmospheric sheen. Sissy brings new meaning to the phrase “best friends forever.”

“I am loved. I am special. I am enough.” This is the mantra that Cecilia (Aisha Dee) preaches on a daily basis to her newly-minted fanbase of 200,000 followers and growing. Her channel “Sincerely Cecilia” thrives on selling sponsored products to the masses and positivity through meditation. Cecilia’s life is utterly upended when she bumps into her childhood bestie, Emma (Hannah Barlow), at a local pharmacy. The two were once so close that they buried a best friend time capsule one summer when they were twelve. Emma, now happily in a loving relationship, invites Cecilia along for the engagement party, first calling her the childhood name that has haunted Cecilia for years: “Sissy.”

Cecilia has missed Emma deeply. Though she may have partially pushed it to the back of her mind, a past trauma haunts Cecilia. Recurring nightmares serve to get us in the character’s headspace, as they drip with eerie hidden symbolism. The traumas of Sissy’s past loom the more time she spends with Emma. After the engagement party goes swimmingly, Emma invites Cecilia for her “Hen’s Weekend” somewhere off in remote Australia. Longing for reconnection (and shortly after falling into their old friendship again after a rousing round of karaoke), Cecilia agrees. Their drive looms with decaying roadkill around each bend. When the group finally arrive at their destination, Cecilia learns with horror that the host is none other than her childhood bully, Alex (Emily De Margheriti).

There is no greater trigger than childhood damage, and for Cecilia, Alex fits the bill. In the time she has been away from Emma, Alex has sunk her teeth into the poor woman, becoming her new “best friend.” Emma’s life may be different from what Cecilia had envisioned, but her personality is at least the same. When the others gaslight and pick at “Sissy,” Emma is always swooping to her rescue. It is nearly akin to the relationship between Carrie White and Sue Snell in 1976 Stephen King film, Carrie. While Sue clearly was never Carrie’s best friend, she did always have her best interests at heart. She did not participate in the incident with the pig’s blood; similarly, Emma is not involved in humiliating “Sissy” in any extent. When her group of snooty wedding friends take turns making jabs at Cecilia’s influencer status and “profiting off the pain of others,” Emma comforts Cecilia, a gesture none of the other pals on her “Hen’s Weekend” would dare to make if one paid them. They are too busy trying to find ways to “cancel Sissy.”

The worst of the bunch is clearly Alex, who bullies “Sissy” both in the past and the present. Emily De Margheriti portrays the type of bitch character one really roots for to bite the bullet early on. “Sissy the sissy,” has haunted Cecilia ever since Alex’s taunts years back, and her present-day iteration is not any nicer. Alex’s disgusting behavior towards Cecilia is an obvious catalyst for the actual events of the film, so in this way, Alex truly serves her purpose as a despicable woman the audience can hate. Once the “accidental deaths” start occurring, the walls Cecilia has built up over the years begin to deteriorate, along with what remains of her sanity.

In these kills, Sissy made me practically cheer with glee. Close-ups, which are used early on when establishing characters, return to prop up the goriest, most brutal moments. The dispatching of each player, accompanied by Cecilia’s reactions, is a true highlight. By the time Sissy reaches the piece de resistance—a batshit crazy culmination that explodes with bloody practical effects work—it has already proved it understands what makes this story so special. The friendship between Sissy and Emma becomes an obsession. Friends or followers: what would one choose with everything on the line?

Sissy screened at the 2022 SXSW Film Festival.

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