“Sissy” is a one messed-up thriller wrapped up in the most adorable, upbeat and value-affirming package.
It’s a horror variation of the Agatha Christie “Ten Little Indians/And Then There Were None” school in the language of influencers, self-actualization and self-help. Yes, it has plenty in common with every house-party slaughter movie from “Bodies, Bodies Bodies” all the way back to the first version of Christie’s genre-defining thriller in the 1940s (“And Then There Were None”). But there’s wit folded into the wickedness, and that puts it over.
Sunny, ever-upbeat Cecilia (Aisha Dee) is an Aussie influencer whose soft-spoken testimonials and “self-care” videos earn her a lot of online love. She’s not a therapist or anything, but she’s cute — which is its own Internet credential. Episodes of her web series “Sincerely Cecilia” are a hit, with hundreds of thousands of fans “Making Friends With Hyperventilation” and learning her mantra.
“I am loved. I am special. I am doing my best.“
Her seemingly solitary life of meditation, sponsor-pitches and “advice” is interrupted when she runs into an old friend for the time in years. Emma, played by co-director Hannah Barlow, is getting married, has an engagement party that night and simply won’t take “No” for an answer.
Since Emma was the blonde we saw with “Sissy” in an old video back when they were two little girls making a “pact” to “end up in the nursing home together,” we wonder at Cecilia’s reluctance. Maybe she liked moving on from that “Sissy” nickname.
They clumsily, then heartily bond at the karaoke bar outing, and Emma ups the ante by demanding that Cecilia join her for a “hen party” that weekend. And even though there’s a hint that Emma’s still pals with this old nemesis from their childhoods, Cecilia figures she’ll tag along.
Only Mean Girl Alex (Emily De Margheriti) is there for this weekend in the country. It’s at her bloody house. And Alex is taken aback at “that psycho” showing up.
No, we don’t know the whole story, but we have to wonder if as we learn the history of their bad blood if our allegiances will switch and just how this women (Yerin Ha and Lucy Barrett) and a bitchy gay guy (Daniel Monks) dynamic is going to work with a couple of blood enemies under the same roof.
The picture’s tone is set in those insipid “Sincerely, Cecilia” videos, right at the top of the movie. We’re invited to view our “heroine” one way, as treacly sweet and meek. She’s even timid when she comically and accidentally gets in the way of an angry pregnant woman at the drug store where she picks up a packet of a feminine hygiene product with the catchiest name ever.
There can’t really be tampons labeled “Bloody Brilliant,” even in Australia. Can there?
Co-writer/directors Kane Senes and Hannah Barlow set us up with jokes and a light tone. Then they drop the hammer.
The meanness depicted here is takes-no-prisoners cruel, the violence unforgivably brutal and gory.
Yes, it’s formulaic, which means we kind of know where things are going. And yes, they do the formula justice, with “Saddle Club” child starlet Dee making the transition from sweet and supportive to something dark and vengeful in style.
Some grudges you carry with you a lifetime, unless the chance comes round to bury them, once and for all.
Rating: unrated, graphic, gory violence
Cast: Aisha Dee, Hannah Barlow, Emily De Margheriti, Daniel Monks, Yerin Ha and Lucy Barrett
Credits: Scripted and directed by Kane Senes and Hannah Barlow. A Shudder release.
Running time: 1:42