Kane Senes & Hannah Barlow’s Sissy is a fun and violent social media thriller with an outstanding lead performance at the helm from Aisha Dee.
Since the origins of MySpace and Facebook, social media has slowly taken over many people’s lives. The dopamine rushes that come from the likes and comments you receive from a post and the following you can obtain simply by existing in an online space matches a similar euphoric feeling one could get from a drug and yet, instead of coming to a shady dealer, the source of these dopamine hits can come entirely from our mobile phones. For all the advances that technology and interconnectivity have given us, there’s an argument that this is all in fact a ticking time bomb. In Sissy, we follow a young woman who has made her name in the online space and the potential dangers of seeking constant affection and validation from those who exist within our phones.
Sissy follows Ceilia (Aisha Dee), a social media influencer with a following of over 200,000 people that is steadily growing. One day, she comes across her old childhood best friend, Emma (Hannah Barlow) who invites her to her bachelorette’s weekend in a remote cabin. What seems like an innocent and fun weekend however turns sour when Ceilia ends up being stuck with her old high school bully and the secrets of her past begin to show themselves.
From the outset, Ceilia is shown as a character who wears different masks to get by in life. When she makes content on social media, she’s confident and warm to give her followers a welcoming attitude as well as providing a reassuring feeling for herself. However, in real life, she’s a lot more reserved. When Cecilia sees Emma for the first time in a supermarket, her initial reaction is to escape and almost lock herself away as this symbol of her past creeps back up in her life. Aisha Dee plays this character in an incredibly sympathetic and multifaceted way that acts as both the heart and soul of Sissy even through the film’s most harrowing moments. It’s clear from the start that who we see of Ceilia in her influencer career is not the same Ceilia we see in her day-to-day life and it’s those differences and contradictions that make her a fascinating character to watch unfold.
From the moment Sissy begins, it enters the scene with an extremely stylish audio and visual palette. The score from Kenneth Lampl feels almost as if you are watching a modern-day fairytale with this innocent and childlike sound that slowly becomes twisted into these Hitchcockian motifs as the blood and violence start to make themselves apparent. At times, the music can be to the detriment of the film as it can be overbearing, particularly during the opening sequences but as the film finds itself, the sounds it creates begin to paint a really beautiful artistic image in all the chaos that unfolds around it.
The film’s overall themes of social media aren’t particularly new but where it particularly shines is in the mean-spirited nature the script provides. One sequence set at a dinner table where Cecilia explains her career to those who are quick to dismiss it and potentially label her as a danger to the world is incredibly uncomfortable to watch but is wonderfully acted and engaging as the tension heats up to an unrelenting level. The first half of Sissy is a slow and anxious crawl that builds to a finish that while expected, isn’t afraid to throw some punches as it navigates through a modern social media landscape with the cinematic body language of a slasher.
As social media becomes a much bigger part of our lives with each passing day, it’s safe to assume that film will continue to analyse and view the mechanisms of how it all works and the human toll it takes on us all. Sissy may not have much to say that’s particularly new in this space, but this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. What the film may lack in original commentary, it makes up for by being an incredibly slick and stylish horror that uses its on-the-nose nature to go in bold directions and is anchored by a fantastic lead performance from Alisa Dee who marks herself as an actress to look out for in the horror genre.
Sissy is now available to watch on Shudder.