Sissy (2022)

I saw a good number of my favorite movies of the year (so far) at Overlook Film Fest in June, which is usually the case.  The programming at that annual horror festival is unmatched by any other local fest I can name, as long as you’re a fully committed genre nerd who doesn’t pay much attention to the Awards Prestige dramas of the fall.  It’s also condensed to a single weekend in early summer, which means it’s impossible for me to catch every movie I want to see in the program. So, I often spend the half-year after Overlook catching up with titles I missed during the festival (which almost invariably pop up on the streaming platform Shudder at one time or another).  Often, I feel validated in which movies I opted to skip at the fest (i.e., She Will), but every now and then there’s a fun little novelty like Sissy that I wish I had seen with a crowd.  It’s always hard to tell how much of an enthusiasm boost I’m giving to movies based on the horror-nerd fervor of the festival, but I do suspect that Sissy killed in the room at Overlook, and I would have loved to share in that joy.

In micro-subgenre terms, Sissy offers an Australian splatstick comedy version of the modern social media thriller. Let’s call it Heavenly Tweetures, Ingrid Goes Down Under, Aussies Aussies Aussies, whatever you like.  It references cult sitcom Kath & Kim in its opening minutes, so you immediately know that it’s filling an Australia-specific niche.  At the same time, its story of a “mental health” social media influencer who becomes a homicidal maniac when she reunites with her childhood bully is a fairly standard-issue template for its genre.  Sissy only Aussifies that template in its irreverent tone & practical-effects gore.  There’s a Dead Alive tinge to its head-crunching kills that makes for a good, goofy time even when the movie is at its most brutal.  That buoyancy seeps through its ironic Disney princess musical score, its Blood Brilliant Tampons™ visual jokes, and its adoring Love Island reality TV parodies; but it’s the gore gags I most would’ve wanted to experience with a crowd.  They’re delighfully vicious, and they’re ultimately what makes the movie special.

There really isn’t much to Sissy‘s social media satire that you can’t find elsewhere.  The titular killer’s addiction to the endorphin rush of notification chimes and her sociopathic ability to alternate between self-care rhetoric & spon-con abuse of her self-appointed position as a mental health authority are familiar to anyone who’s drawn to this kind of material.  I’d even argue that the other notable social media satire at this year’s Overlook, Deadstream, did a much better job of squeezing laughs out of that exact Youtuber brain-rot persona.  There’s a sincerity to Sissy‘s central drama that you won’t find in Deadstream, though, from its nostalgia for childhood BFF kinship to the anxiety-inducing horrors of joining an established adult friend group midstream.  If there’s any incisive social commentary to be found here, it might be in the #terminallyonline understanding of morality where everyone falls into one of two categories: “A Good Person” or “Cancelled.”  It’s when Sissy desperately, violently strikes out to avoid becoming “Cancelled” that the movie evolves into its ideal form: a flippantly funny slasher, not a thoughtful social treatise.

If watching a mental wellness YouTuber become Jokerfied at the first threat of getting cancelled appeals to you, Sissy is a hoot.  That premise is very appealing to me, so I’m not sure why I didn’t prioritize it at Overlook the way I did with Deadstream.  Frankly, I should be cancelled for the offense.

-Brandon Ledet