Bold Type star Aisha Dee unleashes gory mayhem in Australian horror

SISSY ★★★

(MA) 102 minutes

Horror is the perfect medium for getting square. The title of this new low-budget Aussie splatter comedy seems to echo Carrie, the Brian de Palma classic from 1976, in which Sissy Spacek used her special powers to lay waste to her high school bullies.

Aisha Dee plays troubled wellness influencer Cecilia in the horror film Sissy.Credit:Arcadia

In this case, the young woman has no special powers, but she has become a successful influencer 12 years after leaving behind the traumatic schoolyard. Sissy (Aisha Dee) signs her video posts with “Sincerely, Cecilia” and the words “I love you all so much”.

She celebrates passing 200,000 followers by offering half-price on her patented “Elon Mask” cleansing masks – an odd joke, but let’s go with it. She also sells lengths of rope that are used to symbolise the boundaries around oneself, within which one can feel safe. Literally, money for old rope.

In case you’re already gagging, we haven’t got to the horror yet. That takes place on a lonely farm, during a hen’s party weekend for the girl who was once Sissy’s BFF. Emma (Hannah Barlow, who co-wrote and co-directed the movie, with Kane Senes) runs into Sissy in the supermarket. They haven’t seen each other for years, so the bright-eyed Emma insists she must come.

Sissy remembers the video they made on Emma’s 13th birthday, vowing to be best friends till the grave. The other people at the party are mostly loud and self-consciously awful: catty, obsessed by celebrity TV, vapid. One is Alex (Emily De Margheriti), who made Sissy’s life hell when they were 13.

Horror is flexible enough to encompass a social agenda. Barlow and Senes have a lot on their minds – the effects of bullying, the rise of online charlatans and their impact on tender young minds, the cruelty of modern technological communication – but it can bring an earnest tone to what should be a freewheeling adventure. Just when this threatens, the filmmakers unleash some quite unexpectedly gory mayhem. The movie never looks back after this.

It’s far from perfect, but it has a fresh tone and the desire to take risks. The gore just keeps getting funnier as the events turn darker. We cross into the realm of horror-comedy, as Sissy realises how long she has been waiting for revenge. Dee’s performance is one of the film’s strengths: Sissy is as confused as everyone about the terrible accidents that keep happening.

The film was made for little money out of Canberra. It needed more pace, but there’s something funny about the way it embraces revolting gore as part of its palette. The camera holds on the gory bits much longer than it needs to – which magnifies the overall sense of playfulness.

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