Sunday, November 6, 2022

You are (Not) Enough: Sissy (2022)

Sissy (Australia, 2022)
Rating: ****
Starring: Aisha Dee, Hannah Barlow and Emily De Margheriti

Ah, influencers. People who built enough reputation for their knowledge and expertise on certain topics, guiding and engaging enthusiastic masses who look up to them for creative inspiration, authenticity and, once in a while, envy and consumerism. In today's social and traditional media, almost anyone can become an influencer so long as they put enough work to it and this may or may not include putting on a happy face to cover up something... broken.

Running an online wellness channel called Sincerely Cecilia, Cecilia spends her days in front of a camera promoting positivity and self-worth (while throwing in the occasional product placement) to her hundreds of thousands of adoring followers, all of who are unaware that once the camera goes off, their beloved influencer is simply depressed and miserable in life, living alone in a messy apartment watching TV and eating pizza. One day, however, Cecilia found herself bumping into Emma, a childhood friend she lost contact with all these years, and this chance meeting reignited a feeling of warmness and belonging she haven't felt for so long as tries to reconnect with her good friend emotionally. It all goes on a good start with Emma inviting Cecilia to her and her soon-to-be-wife Fran's bachelorette party and the two buddies actually having a swell time, but once Emma invites Cecilia to a weekend getaway far off near the woods with her friends and girlfriend, things just got way awkward and intense.

The house they'll be staying at happens to be owned by Alex, who bullied Cecilia as a kid and holds a spiteful grudge against the awkward girl for something she did to her years ago. Pissed at the fact Emma tagged along Cecilia without her knowledge, Alex goes out of the way to belittle her unwanted guest, mocking her profession and insultingly calling her by her childhood nickname, 'Sissy'. Cecilia, in turn, gets dangerously stressed from the attacks, starting to feel more and more unwanted and out of place from such a close friend group, but strives to do her best putting up a brave face and making amends with old enemies. But it ain't all as easy as it sounds and it isn't long before push comes to shove and bodies start dropping dead like flies.  

Taking cues from Lucky McKee's horror drama May (2002) and the depressing, Ryan Reynold-led dark comedy Voices (2014), Sissy (2022) settles itself as a darkly satirical character drama taking a stab at influencer culture, looking into modern day addictions of weighing one's worth through feedbacks of countless strangers behind digital icons at the cost of one's ability to actually grow as a person and move past familiar comfort and misplaced longing. Cecilia, brilliantly acted here by Ashia Dee, lives by a mantra in which she is loved, special and enough and preaches to her followers that they are, too, loved, special and enough. This, sadly, is hypocritical on her part as the further we go down the rabbit hole, the more we see that she never sincerely feels this way about herself and she constantly struggles to keep up with this well-off guru image in real life. It's a sad sympathetic sight, one that effectively humanizes the character despite her flaws, and the movie does a wonderful job incorporating her rose-colored wistfulness throughout the more depressing and horrific moments to come, including an upbeat yet melancholic score and brightly stylized visuals that are meant to reflect Cecilia's mindset. The film, though, isn't shy on knocking its own drama down a notch to keep itself from being too serious and dark, setting a good level of quirk within the madness with little odd scenes like Cecilia setting up some arts-and-crafts on a fresh grave to make it social media-friendly, as well as posting a quick video of positive reinforcement after braining someone with an amethyst crystal.

On that note, the tone gets devilishly humorous in its whimsy once the bodycount starts rising, even getting a honest laugh out of me when Sissy (2022) throws in a "useless cop" trope in which a rotund fella in uniform mistaken a call for a drunk dial only for them to realize it's a genuine cry for help seconds before the caller's phone dies. This mid-point turn for the more conventional and grisly slasher romp does end up casting aside the film's complex character-driven direction and themes involving bullying and trauma, but I find it hard to be displeased when the resulting carnage is mostly satisfactory and interesting; instead of being straight-up murders, a good deal of the slayings here often resemble accidental deaths that Cecilia inadvertently caused or simply let happen. (I say a good deal because, well, we did have that one incident with the car...) It doesn't appear she wanted to outright murder everyone on sight, but the lengths she goes to keep her image as a misunderstood yet well-meaning person during the slaughter do lean on the horrific and evil, so the story still manages to be an intriguing watch as mess upon mess leads to more carnage, straight up until its caustic yet satisfyingly gory finale.

A small gem of a slasher, Sissy (2022) is both a compelling run as a character piece and a bonafide gruesome treat that serves its dose of blood and gore. It may be a tad spotty with its tone and, perhaps, sacrificed a few good notes for shock value but, at the end of it all, it's a fine viewing should you see yourself looking for a bodycounter with a little more substance and meat to it.

1 male pushed off a cliff, mangled 
1 female had her hair caught on a full bathtub's drain stopper, scalped and drowned
1 female ran over with a car, head crushed
1 female had her head repeatedly beaten and crushed with a walking stick
1 female shot through the head
Total: 5

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