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Sissy Is a Dark Queer Horror-Comedy for the Modern Millennial Age

Sissy Is a Dark Queer Horror-Comedy for the Modern Millennial Age

Aisha Dee in 'Sissy'
Courtesy of SXSW

The film, which premiered at SXSW, follows a queer bachelorette weekend turned deadly.

Sissy, a new queer horror-comedy that premiered at SXSW over the weekend, posits the question: What do social media influencers and slasher killers have in common? The answer, according to the film, is twofold. Both wear masks and, if triggered, the result can be very, very deadly.

Perhaps this is why social media influencers have increasingly become the subject of horror films like Spree; New Year, New You; Shook; and Deadstream (another excellent horror-comedy that premiered this weekend at SXSW). The space between the persona they present online and the reality of who they are once the camera turns off creates a tension that is rife for exploration, as is the role that an adoring but fickle fandom can have on the psyche. Both are mined here to great effect.

Sissy follows Cecilia (Aisha Dee), a wellness and mental health social media influencer with a growing following. On camera, she's cheery, zen, and confident. But once she steps out of the rosy, pastel tones of the studio and into her dark and cluttered apartment and starts feasting on cold pizza in front of a tiny TV, audiences get their first glimpse at the cracks in her mask.

A chance run-in with her childhood friend Emma (Hannah Barlow, who also co-wrote and co-directed the film alongside Kane Senes) sets Cecilia -- aka Sissy -- on a collision course with past trauma. The two had fallen out a decade earlier following a violent incident, but despite their past, Emma is eager to reconnect and invites Cecilia to her bachelorette night.

At first, Cecilia is overjoyed to be granted entry into Emma's glittery, rainbow-colored queer world. Emma has a fabulous group of friends, a charismatic partner named Fran (Lucy Barrett), but, most importantly, makes a special effort to ensure Cecilia feels included -- something she craves more than anything, which is laid bare by her frequent affirmation of "I am loved. I am special. I am doing my best."

Lucy Barrett and Hannah Barlow in 'Sissy'

When pressed to join Emma and Fran for their full bachelorette weekend at a remote cabin, Cecilia reluctantly agrees to tag along, only for the weekend to spiral into gruesome violence when she discovers the getaway is being hosted by Alex (Emily De Margheriti), a bully from her childhood. A slow build of tension between Cecilia and Alex eventually leads to the reopening of old wounds -- sometimes literally -- as the past is revealed.

While the content is dark and unflinchingly gruesome (hats off to the special effects artists who render each death in ghastly detail), it's juxtaposed against bubblegum pastels and cottagecore aesthetics, a contradiction that underscores the discrepancy at the heart of Cecilia/Sissy herself. Cecilia is an unreliable narrator, first and foremost, because she's one to herself as well. In real-time, and with the help of a frequent social media dopamine rush, she repeatedly rewrites her own narrative in lieu of confronting her own behavior, which could undermine her carefully crafted online persona.

Despite all this, one can't help but find themselves sympathizing with Cecilia just a little bit all the way to the end, which is a testament not only to the film's writing but to Dee's charismatic and layered performance as well. Sissy is a modern spin on the Carrie model, which makes for a wicked little queer treat of a film, particularly if your tastes run dark.

Sissy premiered at SXSW and had been acquired by the streaming service Shudder for release later this year. Check out the trailer below.

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