"Twins...one is loving, kind and gentle...the other, murderously mad!"
"Identical in body but not in mind."
(back of video blurb):
" The Story: Two sisters, born Siamese twins, are seperated in late adolescence. One is loving, kin, gentle....the other - murderously mad.
The problem is, you never know which one you're holding in your arms.
"The hideous horror of Hitchcock...the most skilful, entertaining and imaginative movie since 'Psycho'...a skin-crawling triumph" Daily News
"A real treasure...the delicate balance between humour and horror" Time Magazine
"Good humoured, if not exactly good-natured...it scared the **** out of me" Village Voice
"Margot Kidder has a demon-slut's curly lips and knows how to turn on the sexiness with a witch's precision" The New Yorker "
A fun, if derivative, psycho-drama from Hitchcock acolyte Brian De Palma.
SISTERS ,De Palma's first major success, set the template for the majority of his future thrillers. It is no wonder that he is accused of being 'Hitch-lite' as this movie is a virtual trailer tape of plot devices and ideas from the Master's work, with less of a nod and more of a head bang towards; PSYCHO (1960), REAR WINDOW (1954) and STRANGERS ON A TRAIN (1951)- amongst others. Which is not to say that SISTERS is a bland 'cover version', De Palma has enough skill and sheer energy to not let it descend to that level.
The film opens with an immediate flash of Hitchcock- Bernard Herrmann's stabbing and screeching score (he also provided the music for PSYCHO), a move that shows that De Palma is (wisely) going to acknowledge his influences. The music pounds over a montage of shots of foetus', the last one of which shows two together- the Siamese twin. We are then introduced to Danielle (Margot Kidder) a French/Canadian model who spends the evening with a man who appeared on a quiz show with her- (here De Palma shows us a little of his own inventiveness, the quiz show footage taking place inside the shape of a tv screen, a hint of the trickery to come). The man escorts Danielle home after she has an argument with her ex-husband and he ends up spending the night with her- in the throes of passion we see a large mass of scar tissue running along her thigh. In the morning she explains it's her birthday, but not just for her but also for her twin sister Dominique, who, much to the man's surprise, it turns out is also staying at the flat. He hears them both arguing whilst he dresses in the bathroom- in a scene that strongly recalls PSYCHO. He then agrees to go and fetch Danielle some medication and whilst he is out picks up a birthday cake which he has inscribed to Danielle and Dominique, (look out for TALES FROM THE CITY's Mrs. Madrigal- Olympia Dukakis, in an uncredited role as a shop assistant). On his return he finds a figure, who he presumes to be Danielle, curled up under the duvet. He fetches a knife and puts it in her hand and offers the cake to be carved...
SISTERS is full of what could be seen as Hitchcock 'clichés' but De Palma puts a spin on each and every one. He attempts to out-shock the shower scene in PSYCHO with the films first murder. Something which he comes near to doing, the audience is aware that it is coming but are not prepared for the ferocity of it. The shot of a knife stabbing into a man's mouth is still quite a shocking and potent image. Another twist De Palma employs is his choice of hero, or in this case heroine. In a Hitchcock film the main character would invariably be smooth and debonair- Cary Grant or someone of that ilk. In SISTERS De Palma uses a counter-culture figure (Jennifer Salt), as a re-actionary feminist reporter, who is introduced to the action through a set of REAR WINDOW like set pieces. And tries to convince the police that a murder was committed across the street from her.... At the time of SISTER's original release some hailed it as a "really radical feminist film" and it does include sexualized violence towards men that it would be hard to imagine being perpertrated by men against women in any of the film's Hollywood contemporaries. In fact, although the men come off worse against the knife, the women hardly come out of it empowered- in fact quite the opposite.... De Palma also nods to the counter-culture film's of the 1960's when he employs the use of a split screen, a device that Hitchcock would never of used but something that had already been utilised by Andy Warhol in CHELSEA GIRLS (1968). The split screen device cleverly emphasises the presence of split minds and provides the audience the opportunity to witness two concurrent set pieces unfurling and intertwining- (something he would later use, with greater success, during the fiery climax of CARRIE (1976)). De Palma also takes inspiration from the work of Salvador Dali, during a nightmarish dream sequence near the end of the picture- which not only recalls his shocking surrealist short film UN CHIEN ANDALOU, but also Hitchcock's SPELLBOUND (1945)- for which Dali also created the dream sequences.
De Palma's magpie eye does almost drown SISTERS in a tidal wave of homage, but incredibly it succeeds as an enthralling thriller in it's own right. The familiarity of the plot devices and story-line means that the audience is often lulled into a false and smug sense of security, seemingly safe in the knowledge of what is to come. Only to be rudely awakened when De Palma spins off wildly on another tangent. It is also a wonderful exercise in showing what can be achieved on a very low budget and is helped greatly by strong performances from the majority of the cast- most notably Kidder who is superb.
Somewhat ironically, considering it's debt to Hitchcock and PSYCHO, it has been announced that SISTERS is due to get the re-make treatment. Producer of the original and the proposed re-make stated recently:
"There's obviously a post-SCREAM reaction in Hollywood to the Horror film. SCREAM regenerated the form commercially- it's a gold rush. I'd been thinking about remaking SISTERS for years- before SCREAM was released. It's not as famous as PSYCHO and therefore not encumbered with too much expectation. It was a drive-in movie at the time but when I looked at it again I saw how elegantly it was structured and how well it stood up as a piece of Horror entertainment. I hired a writer to revise and update it and we are talking to Roger Avary [director of KILLING ZOE, co-author of PULP FICTION] about directing."
BODYCOUNT 2 female:0 / male:2
1) Male stabbed in mouth and legs
2) Male slashed across groin with scalpel