For an introverted wolf such as I, the whole concept of social media is terrifying. You want PEOPLE, of all people, watching your every move? There is a reason I built my own planet, wiped my own memory of its very location, constructed a vast, intricate cave system for my home, and let Connie manage all of my social media accounts: To keep people out. Simple as that!
Still, I find myself bothering with these horror movies all about the dumb decisions the humans seem dedicated to making even with their lives at stake. And now for the whole world to see on a public forum through something called “vlogging.”
Vlogging. How does one even PRONOUNCE that word? I snigger and pat myself on the back, where I discover a new ringworm patch.
Yes, I used to be human myself, and perhaps that part of me feels bad to watch them desperately seek validation from total strangers.
Ha! Fat chance.
By the way, don’t forget to subscribe to my blog!!!
Maybe my cringe-video and horror film addiction boils down to the fact that, besides flesh and blood, I am sustained by sweet, sweet schadenfreude. What I’m saying is you don’t need violent bloodshed to drive home the point that social media sucks, but it definitely makes it more fun.
Which brings me to Sissy (2022).
This Shudder original is about a vlogging influencer who makes a living spewing out self-help platitudes for hordes of lonely and desperate followers.
For the record, I would never do anything out of loneliness or desperation, especially not start my own blog whose only audience is exclusively myself, that I write from the great depths of a cave on a planet whose only inhabitants are myself and my cat.
The vlogger’s name is Cecelia, and one day she reconnects with her childhood bff, Emma. Cecelia and Emma remember silly times together laughing and singing and burying a time capsule. Emma’s getting married (puke) and insists that Cecelia tags along for her “hen’s weekend.”
Unfortunately, Cecelia quickly feels like a misfit in the group, and to make matters worse, she hits a kangaroo with her car. If you couldn’t tell by my use of the terms “hen’s weekend” and “kangaroo”, this feature film takes place in Australia.
To make matters even worse, the group will be spending the weekend at the home of Cecelia’s childhood-bully-turned-Emma’s-new-bff, Alex! The same Alex who, years ago, condescendingly dubbed her SISSY on the playground. The same Alex who also bears a grudge against Cecelia for. . . a pretty good reason.
Perhaps I enjoy this because as a wee were-pup, I dealt with my share of bullies. Human kids who couldn’t understand where all this hair was coming from or how I could watch scary movies or why I brought my cat to class with me. I’m glad I got through school before they could use social media to lob even more silver bullets my way!
The difference between me and Sissy is that I dealt with my bullies by fleeing the planet! Always run away from your problems, I say. But Cecelia deals with hers by . . . well, you can probably guess.
“I am loved. I am special. I am enough. I am doing my best. We all are.” Cecilia hypnotically drones as she sells magical ropes to her audience-that-means-well. These ropes are about as useful as the façade she has spent decades building up around the reality of her life. And she will go to some pretty violent lengths to make sure nothing ruins the magic.
Cecelia smiles while heaving and wheezing and calls it “Making friends with hyperventilation.” She flips through TV channels, ignoring reports about climate change and war, and settles for a vapid confessional on some Big Brother-style show.
Instead of dealing with childhood trauma in a healthy fashion—like becoming codependent on your cat, for example—Cecelia internalizes her fears and failures and seeks validation from her hundreds of thousands of internet followers. In fact, she is so self-absorbed that she even runs into a pregnant woman in the pharmacy and later hits her with her car in the parking lot as she smiles to herself.
The disconnect between Cecelia’s reality and Reality-reality is very, er, real. Any time she faces conflict, she retreats until it no longer becomes sustainable, and then she boils over and starts killing everyone! The violence Cecelia resorts to in order to maintain her safety circle are at constant odds with her vlog messages. She kills someone and then has a live stream about “paying it forward” and “simple acts of kindness.” Very nicely said after bashing someone’s head in with a giant crystal!
Perhaps she needed to pull those happy ropes a little bit tighter.
Let’s not put the blame for what happens entirely on Cecelia. Emma’s new buddies that tag along for the hen’s weekend are the sort that make you howl at the screen. They’re narcissistic, judgmental, loud, obnoxious. They constantly badger Cecelia with petty comments and insults and eventually destroy the barrier she has been building up since going ham on Alex with a garden spade as innocent young kiddos. I would eat them with a nice, tidy fork and be done with it.
Still, even curmudgeonly I must admit it’s hard not to empathize with Alex. After all, she has to deal with the physical repercussions of having been attacked by Cecelia as a kid, and then Cecelia tries to kill her and all of her friends years later. The director, Hannah Barlow (who also plays Emma), manages to craft characters and death sequences that are both funny, heartbreaking, and sometimes difficult to watch. I say that through gritted teeth, much as it chagrins me to say somethin’ good about any human, living or dead.
When she was a kid, Cecelia said: “I don’t really want to grow up. I don’t want anything to change. I want to stay this way forever.” And she sure stayed true to that.
As for me, change is a big part of my wolfy little life. And that’s never gonna change!
Directed by: Hannah Barlow and Kane Senes
Written by: Hannah Barlow and Kane Senes
Aisha Dee as Cecelia
Hannah Barlow as Emma
Emily de Margheriti as Alex
Daniel Monks as Jamie
Lucy Barrett as Fran
Yerin Ha as Tracey
Run time: 102 minutes
Where can you watch? Shudder.
Full-Moon Rating: 5/5 FULL MOONS