Review | ‘Sissy’ will make you squirm and laugh in equal measures

Sissy | Revelation Perth International Film Festival | ★ ★ ★ ★

Australian comedy-horror film Sissy was selected as the opening night film for this year’s Revelation Perth International Film Festival, and even though I’m no fan of the horror and gore genre, I can appreciate this film works on many different levels. 

I first watched a preview of Sissy online, ahead of chatting to Perth raised actor Daniel Monks about his part in the film, but watching it on the big screen on the festival’s opening night made me appreciate it on a whole new level. On the big screen the Australian bush setting, which features throughout most of the film, looks vast and impressive.

The story introduces us to Cecilia, a 20-something wellness influencer who has a loyal following on social media. She bumps into childhood friend Emma, who addresses her as Sissy – the moniker she used in her youth. In primary school Sissy and Emma had promised to be ‘best friends forever’ but that all fell apart when Emma traded Cecilia in for new friend Alex, who teased and tormented the young girl.

Emma invites Cecilia to join her hen’s night celebrations as she prepares to get married to her girlfriend. After introducing her to a tight circle of friends another invitation is offered, a weekend away at a holiday house in remote bushland – a continuation of the celebration of upcoming nuptials.

It all gets awkward when it’s revealed that Alex is one of the other guests for the weekend getaway, and there’s some bad blood that remains from their childhood. Twelve years after their rivalry reached a crescendo, these two still have scores to settle.

The film is filled with queer characters, it’s hilariously funny, and even on a second viewing there were moments where I had to cover my eyes and squirm, but if you’re into horror, gore with a big dollop of comedy, you’ll love this movie.

The lives of the characters prompt thoughts about what makes someone a victim, what seals a friendship, what ends one? Are the people making video posts about wellness actually very well themselves?

It’s awesome to see Australian filmmakers creating genre films that can compete on the international stage. As I may have ranted about 15 years ago, the Australian film industry has for too long been obsessed with quirky comedies and moody doom and gloom arthouse stories.

Anyone who has worked behind the counter of a video store can tell you – comedy + suspense + gore is a winning formula every time.

The film screened at SXSW earlier this year, and it’s screening at the Revelation Perth International Film Festival is a great chance to see it before it gets a general release to theatres later this year.

A talented cast of up-and-coming Australian actors deliver impressive performances including Aisha Dee, Hannah Barlow, Emily De Margheriti, Daniel Monks, Yerin Ha and Lucy Barrett. 

The film is co-written and co-directed by Hannah Barlow and Kane Senes, who were both in town for the festival’s opening night screening. Barlow also plays the character of Emma in the film.

Speaking to the opening night crowd, Barlow shared the film’s journey from page to screen, including the challenge of shooting around Covid-19 restrictions.

“Kane and I started coming up with Sissy in our living room and we started writing it in 2018.” Barlow shared, outlining that the script excited producers immediately and within two years filming was underway.

Senes shared that the film came to life once Aisha Dee was cast in the lead role, and she brought a specific take on the character. While many of the other roles in the film were written for the actors, the team creating parts for their friends and colleagues.

Sissy is sure to find an appreciative audience, and I can’t wait to see what this filmmaking team deliver next.

Sissy has one final screening at the Revelation Perth International Film Festival on Wednesday 13th July at 8.30pm. Head to Luna Leederville to see the film. 

Graeme Watson

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