Out of the Celluloid Closet

Our Picks from Frameline: Cut! and Sissy

The best way to describe Cut! comes midway through the film, as a police detective reluctantly sits down to watch yet another horror film at the suggestion of his partner, a horror fanatic. No doubt this dynamic is what the audience of the film itself will end up looking like.

Cut! follows director Marcos and those around him as he directs a low-budget slasher b-movie. As production wraps, cast members start dropping, murdered by a heartless killer wearing black gloves. The film takes heavy cues from Yann Gonzalez’s Knife+Heart and the giallo genre writ large while adding the deadpan humor and social drama of Pedro Almodovar’s early work. If the promise of an Almodovarian take on Knife+Heart doesn’t drag you to the theater, chances are there isn’t much else that will. 

Cut! is a film that wears its influences proudly and doesn’t do much to innovate its respective genre. More than just being on the nose, Cut! is as deep in the nose as a PCR test swab. The limitation of such an approach to homage is that it often recreates the dated representations of the 60s and 70s without any criticism of the genre. 

More than just being on the nose, Cut! is as deep in the nose as a PCR test swab.

While not a ‘good’ movie by any stretch of the imagination, Cut! is just plain fun. The film is absolutely filled with charming visual gags and rough recreations from the films it’s trying to emulate including a group of scorned actors beating up Marcos (reminiscent of Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!) or a moment late into the film where a woman overdramatically flees the killer down a subway hallway channeling Isabelle Adjani in Possession

It’s pure intentional shoestring camp homage, with a meta-narrative plot built in as a way to cover up some of its own lapses in quality. Cut! makes no attempt to be something that it’s not, and that’s where its greatest strengths and weaknesses lie. What the film clues into is that people love femmes being absolutely deranged in front of colorful backgrounds. It’s just a shame that many of them just don’t get quite enough screen time before being killed off. 

Ultimately, Cut! is a film made by film dorks playing around with some of their favorite titles and if you’re in on the joke, it’s a great time. If you’re not, then it’s probably best to leave Cut! alone in the dirty back alley where it’s perfectly happy just being itself.

Kane Senes and Hannah Barlow’s Sissy follows Cecilia, a wellness influencer who has a chance re-encounter with her old childhood best friend Emma. On a whim, Emma enthusiastically invites Cecilia to join her and her close friends for a secluded bachelorette party celebrating her engagement. Arriving as the social reject of the party, Cecilia learns that one of the other party guests is Alex, one of her worst childhood tormentors. As tensions run high, the bodies start dropping. 

While Sissy cites Carrie as an influence, it shares very little beyond the premise of an adolescent girl bullied into madness. Instead Sissy finds more commonalities with the current revival of genre-aware slasher films which use their settings to explore a whole manner of socio-economic conditions. Likewise, whereas the original Carrie took aim at the oppressive environment of 50s Americana culture, Sissy adapts its setting to a far more intimate group of queer friends, specifically focusing on the specific kind of psychological torment femme lesbians can enact on each other. 

Sissy finds more commonalities with the current revival of genre-aware slasher films which use their settings to explore a whole manner of socio-economic conditions.

Sissy uses a lot of hot-button terms and ideas, particularly as they pertain to queer sensitivity, but never overdoes it. Cecilia’s use of the language of mental health and ‘wellness’ is wholly believable, as is her tormentors’ immediacy to joke about her cancelation and reliance on safe spaces to maintain a fragile sense of calm within herself. 

The film threads a very thin needle between using the persona of a wellness guru as a way to improve one’s own mental health and as a cover to excuse one’s mistakes, and leaves enough room for the audience to consider just how responsible Cecilia is for her actions. Thankfully, the film also gives plenty of room in its subtext to examine the lesbian overlap between friendship, romance, devotion, and obsession. It also entertains the wild idea that perhaps queer people can also be bad people with a complex relationship to the ways society constructs them and their queerness.

Sissy is an innovative and charming queer slasher that delivers everything you need and want from a horror film: creative and brutal kills, a charming sense of humor, and enough bubbling under the surface to keep you thinking after you’ve left the theatre. Whether you’re a horror aficionado or just looking for something to hold your appetite until A24’s upcoming Bodies Bodies Bodies release, Sissy is a wholly engrossing indie horror worthy of your attention.

Cut! premieres at Frameline on 

Sissy premieres at Frameline on June 23rd. 

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