Where was her family? was the first question one of my friends asked after we finished watching SISSY (2022), a horror (comedy) movie starring Aisha Dee now out on Shudder.
A social influencer (“mental health advocate,” if you will), Cecilia “Sissy” No Last Name — putting her up there with the greats such as Beyoncé and Rihanna — runs into her old best friend at a pharmacy and is later invited to her engagement party and hens’ weekend. (That’s a bachelorette party for all the people like me who didn’t know what this meant but just went with it.)
The movie is wonderfully gay: Emma’s fiancée is Fran (played by Lucy Grace Barrett); Cecilia has a strange obsession with Emma (and who hasn’t felt this way about their best friend?); there’s a scene where Alex caresses Cecilia (and who hasn’t been caressed by their bully?); and the vacation home has a balloon banner that says “SAME VAGINA FOREVER”, ’cause marriage. There have even been rumors about Aisha Dee and Lucy Grace Barrett canoodling while shooting this movie! Black queers we out here winning once again!
Cecilia achieves, within three minutes, one of the strongest and most depressing openings to a movie I’ve seen in a minute. First, talking to her audience, she’s all smiles against a pink background, telling her viewers that after putting their safety circle rope around them to practice the breathing exercise she’s been using since Episode 253. Y’all, the gorgeous Aisha Dee looks us straight in the eyes, big smile on her face and proceeds to just: hyperventilate. For like, an unsettling amount of time. And then she says goodbye to her followers and proceeds to walk around her dirty apartment and eat refrigerated pizza (SHE DIDN’T HEAT IT UP) on her couch while watching reality TV.
It sets the tone perfectly for this movie because all of us went, What the entire fuck.
Things get stranger as somehow.
Excited about the prospect of attending the wedding and having her best friend again, Cecilia digs up their time capsule, takes it home and plugs in the video camera that she and Emma used to make their own little talk show. After deciding to indulge in nostalgia by dying her hair the day before the party, Cecelia heads off to the vacation house. Upon arriving at the vacation house, Cecilia comes face to face with Alex (played by Emily De Margheriti), her childhood bully and….. Emma’s new best friend?
There are all kinds of posts that say things about how girls of a certain age are really into the weirdest shit; and that you are never more terrifying than when you’re a teenager; and even in her most recent movie, Do Revenge, Multiple Award-Winning Please Be Sapphic Queen Sarah Michelle Gellar reminds us, “You are never as powerful as you are at seventeen.” The expectation is that, after those hormones settle down, you’re supposed to as well. Cecilia reminds us that whatever was living in you before doesn’t just vanish into thin air; it mutates and resides in your bones until it decides your body isn’t home enough for it anymore.
You may think I’m talking about just Cecilia here, but alas! Alex and Emma show their hands as well. Tied together through the inexplicable need to be the “one and only” best friend of Emma, as well as the traumatic bullying and subsequent consequence for standing up for oneself, Alex, Emma, and Cecilia are woven into each other so deeply that to extract one from the other would threaten everyone involved. Each tries to be their own person, separate from the trauma of their shared childhood, but that just leaves them all vulnerable to violence.
I’ve got to tell you, the movie is gross. But it makes sense! We’re in Australia and at one point, Fran (American) asks when there’s a car accident with a kangaroo, “I don’t suppose one of you has a gun?” and Tammy (Australian) is like, no! We don’t do that around here! Which is the movie letting you know that the only way to kill here is to be super intentional and up close and I’ve got to say, it’s a pretty strong reflection of the movie as a whole. Not one moment of the movie can be taken out without the entire story collapsing and each kill is somehow more gruesome than the last.
Like, the last two kills? I’m gonna keep it a hunnid: my friends had to tell me when I could stop looking through the little space between my hands. The last one — in Jennifer’s Body when Chip’s mom was like, “You remember what the police said that boy looked like when that monster was done with him?” And Chip (NONCHALANTLY I MUST ADD) says, “Lasagna with teeth?” That’s literally all I can see in that final murder scene. So if you’re in the mood for an upgraded version of Jennifer’s Bodyesue type gore, you’ll enjoy this.
Even though I’m late to the horror movie party (little me only had so much terror she could handle and everyone told me the Black people always died anyways), I am absolutely here for the Black people survive horror even (maybe even especially?) if they maybe kinda possibly were in the wrong. Much like real life, the only people you see cheering for a Black final girl are Black women and Black queer people (and if they’re Black queer people? Usually just black queer people are rooting for them). So to sit around with my friends, and be able to talk about how, yeah Cecilia was fucked up but who else was looking out for her? It had to be one of the most therapeutic conversations I’ve had in a fucking long time.
In all other horror movies, people “what if” the (usually) white villain/anti-hero to death. But when it comes time to extending that same imagination and empathy to Black people, oh buddy people come up mighty blank. Here, in this little Zoom room, we were able to tell the truth about being Black queer women and people: the obvious initial jealousy that Fran had over Cecilia, the knowledge that “all skinfolk ain kinfolk,” and the understanding that, when a Black queer woman as traumatized as Cecilia does not get help by her age, it’s not surprising at all because the world rarely seeks to help them before its too late.
Like, RIP to those people in the movie but I’m here for Cecilia winning. Because even though she was wrong in a lot of ways, she got out alive against all reason — and that’s the kind of story a Black queer person like me needs to fuck with.