My first viewing at the 2022 Fantasia International Film Festival is the hit Australian film, Sissy. This darkly comedic thriller is written and directed by Hannah Barlow (For Now), who also stars in the film, and Kane Senes (For Now, Echoes of War). The films introduces audiences to Cecilia (aka Sissy), a mental health influencer with a large social media following. When she randomly bumps into her old best friend, Emma, after a decade, Cecilia gets invited to Emma’s hen party. As tensions rise and old traumas resurface, what should be a weekend of celebration quickly turns into a massacre.
Senes and Barlow use Sissy to take a satirical look at the toxicity of influencer culture, as well as how past traumas can dictate our entire lives. It begins by showing just how false social media can be. We see Sissy doing her promotional videos in a little set she’s built for herself, yet as soon as the camera is off the audience is shown the reality of the sad, lonely, somewhat slovenly life she lives. It is also a great example of the hypocrisy of influencers as Cecilia constantly promotes positive mental health, yet she clearly has never sought professional help for her own issues. While many of these topics Sissy covers have rather serious implications, the filmmakers show everything in a satirical, comedic light. It allows the plot to be quite obvious in its messaging because it’s done in a quirky way that delivers plenty of laughs.
Between the visuals, performances, and practical effects, there is a lot to love about this film. The entire cast is fantastic, but Aisha Dee (Channel Zero, Sweet/Vicious) shines as Cecilia. Her performance is unhinged, yet Dee also makes the character feel relatable as she tries to connect with others while also fighting off panic attacks. Despite her eventual unraveling, it’s hard not to empathize with the character. Sissy is primarily bright and colorful, except in those moments when we see behind the scenes of Cecilia’s life. On top of that, there are gnarly, jaw-dropping practical effects to add plenty of gore. The contrast of the vibrancy of the characters alongside the blood and guts is simultaneously disturbing and funny.
Sissy is a quirky thriller that will have audiences laughing and gasping in turn as it not-so-subtly tackles the toxicity of influencer culture.
OVERALL RATING: 7.5/10