Friday, October 24, 2014

31 Days of Horror-Day 24: Sisters (1973)

(dir. Brian De Palma)

*First time viewing

     Throughout his career, Brian De Palma has focused explicitly on themes of voyeurism, obsession, and the infliction of psychological trauma. While his shifts in character perspectives and plot twists sometimes come at the cost of creating a tonally consistent film, De Palma has always been one of the most entertaining directors of thrillers and horror films. Sisters focuses on reporter, Grace, who witnesses a man’s murder in the apartment across from her. The police don’t believe her story, leading her to investigate on her own. Grace becomes caught in a deadly tale of Siamese twin sisters, whose separation resulted in disturbing psychological consequences.

     De Palma’s film is part Rear Window and part Psycho, but the story lacks the impact of either of those masterpieces. Though De Palma has paid tribute to Hitchcock throughout his career, his films are always a little trashier (in the best sense of the word) and more exploitative than Hitchcock’s. Still, the schlock value is usually mixed with important sociological and psychological ideas. Sisters deals with race in the eyes of the police, female agency, and identity. While none of these concepts are given enough attention to really say anything significant, they prevent De Palma’s film from just being a pulp piece.

     Part of what makes De Palma’s films (Sisters in particular) so unique are his creative camera choices and shot constructions. Sisters is filled with neat flourishes, notably the use of a split screen two show a scene from two different perspectives. This makes the initial murder all the more striking. Later in the film, De Palma delivers exposition in a clever way by inserting Grace into another character’s memories through a very surreal form of hypnosis. Despite the fact that the twist becomes predictable in the third act and the ending note doesn’t have the resonance it should, De Palma’s directorial ability elevates the film.

Scare Factor: 1/5 While it falls more on the thriller end of the spectrum than genuine horror, there are still some thrills to be had. If you’re a fan of De Palma’s work, it’s well worth a watch. If you’re a De Palma virgin, Carrie and Blow Out are better examples of what he can achieve with a stronger script, but Sisters adds a nice sense of progression in the context of his career.

*Available to watch on Hulu Plus

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