Aussie horror-comedy film Sissy takes a bloody swipe at toxic influencer culture
sissy had its world premiere at the prestigious South by Southwest (SXSW) festival in Austin, Texas in March 2022. Although the film is full of Australian references and was shot at locations in Canberra and Yass, the silly and gory humor has always landed in the United States, says actress Emily De Margheriti Large format.
“I watched it for the first time in Austin,” says De Margheriti. “With satirical horror, people tend to clap when someone dies – so people were clapping most of the time. It’s very dark. Kind of reminds me of Kill Bill. You won’t need to cover your eyes or anything. You laugh, you don’t shout.
De Margheriti plays Alex, bridesmaid to bride-to-be Emma (Hannah Barlow, who also directs). Emma runs into an old school friend Cecilia (The fat guy‘s Aisha Dee) and invites her to her next hen weekend. When Alex discovers that Cecilia – aka “Sissy” – is back on the scene, old tensions lead to bloody confrontations.
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“It’s not necessarily the mean girl who’s the meanest,” says De Margheriti. “I thought of Regina George in mean girls [as a reference point], but I felt that Alex had more bitterness, she was more vulnerable. She’s just as hurt as Aisha Dee’s character.
Cecilia, a successful social media influencer, gives advice to her thousands of followers on how to set boundaries and forgive. But Alex remembers a very different Sissy – one that left a horrible scar on her face.
“It’s so interesting, with social media, how unhealthy it is to post one [image] of ourselves,” she says. “I remember reading it and thought it might be a really good festival movie. It felt like realistic horror. After that you won’t look at your friend the same way again.
The vindictive side of social media was a big theme for Australian filmmakers Barlow and Kane Senes, who co-wrote and co-directed the film, with infamous influencer Belle Gibson “a big influence” for Cecilia’s character. De Margheriti, director of Los Angeles-based production company DEMS Entertainment, which co-produced sissysaw the potential for a movie that showed a scarier side to the industry in likes, comments, and shares.
“It felt like it could be anyone. Anyone could accidentally bring a psychopath into their home, a psychopath like Sissy.
Without giving too much away, De Margheriti’s favorite moment during filming was when she found herself buried in the dirt in the Canberran bush. “I was just lying in my grave – coming to terms with death,” she laughs. “Seriously, the things actors have to do. It was, wow, cathartic.
sissy screens at the Melbourne International Film Festival on August 6, 8, 12 and 13. Watch the trailer here.