REVIEW: Sisters [1973]

“There is no body because there was no murder”

Many people out there seem to have some sort of indifference when it comes to the subject of director Brian De Palma. I’m not quite sure what it is, but I have enjoyed every film I’ve seen by him. In anticipation of his new The Black Dahlia, I decided to revisit one of his earlier films, Sisters. I hadn’t seen it in over five years or so, but always remembered finding it intellectually disturbing and containing one of the most surreal, enjoyable endings I’ve seen. Experiencing it again brought back all the memories and showed that the film holds up pretty well over the thirty-plus years since its release.

A murder has taken place and its only witness will not be taken seriously by the police. Reporter Grace Collier (Jennifer Salt) decides to take it upon herself to get to the bottom of the horrific act she witnessed. She enlists a private detective, played by Charles Durning, and goes off to discover what lies in young model Danielle Breton’s past. Does she have a twin that she is protecting? Is her creepy ex-husband behind it all? Grace has her hands full and soon gets in over her head. This is the basic plotline of the film; it seems on the surface to be a slight story, but the great acting and direction make it so much more. Yes, there are many instances bringing to mind Hitchcock; between the score done by Bernard Herrmann, a Hitch vet, and a car tailing scene with shots reminiscent to Janet Leigh’s drive to the Bate’s Motel, you definitely see De Palma wearing his influences on his sleeve. The story is vintage wrong man, whodunit, yet it all culminates into a shocking finale that is unique unto itself.

Danielle Breton is played nicely by a young Margot Kidder. She uses a well-executed French-Canadian accent, (at least to my ears), and is believable as the naïve, defenseless woman caught in the middle of it all. She also does a wonderful job in old film footage as her Siamese twin Dominique, showing the disparate emotional states of the two sisters. Besides Salt and Durning, who both play their parts effectively, the other standout is De Palma stalwart William Finley. Finley plays the ex-husband of Kidder’s character, and he is a sight for sure. Creepiness emanates from him throughout the film as one never really can tell for sure what part he plays in the proceedings. The nerdy, coke bottle glasses and classic villianesque smoking brings a foreboding whenever he is on screen. This is definitely perfect casting.

For anyone who enjoys cerebral horror, I wholeheartedly recommend seeing this film. It will seem a bit dated when blood is spilled, (fluorescent, thick red goo), yet when one really looks under the surface into the psychological happenings, he/she will see that it stills resonates strongly. The surrealistic finale is unforgettable with dreamlike, old home movie video grain style vignettes containing all the characters we have come across during the film’s course. It is definitely unnerving as mental patients are shown in their natural habitat.

Sisters 8/10 | ★ ★ ★


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