(director/writer: Kane Senes/Hannah Barlow; screenwriter: Hannah Barlow; cinematographer: Steve Arnold; editor: Margi Hoy; music: Kenneth Lampl; cast:  Emily De Margheriti (Alex), Aisha Dee (Cecilia/Sissy), Hannah Barrow  (Emma), Yerin Ha (Tracey), Lucy Barrett (Fran), Shaun Martindale (Constable Martindale), Amelia Lule (Young Cecelia), April Blasdale (Young Alex), Daniel Monks (Jamie); Runtime: 102; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Lisa Shaunessy/Jason Taylor/John De Margheriti/Bec Janek; A Shudder release; 2022-Australia)

“Compelling female driven horror pic.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Aussie co-writers/directors Kane Senes (“For Now”/”Echoes of War”) & Hannah Barlow (“For Now”) drive home with force this compelling female driven horror pic. Co-writer/director Barlow co-stars as Emma, the sidekick to the main star, Sissy (Aisha Dee), in this witty but bloody horror pic, that offers a variation on the Agatha Christie classic “Ten Little Indians”. The thriller is a favorite on the queer film circuit.

Aisha Dee is the twenty-something Cecilia, aka Sissy, a snappy nickname for Cecilia when a kid. It’s a shortened name of Cecilia and also hinted at her being bullied as a child. Now she’s a sweet, beloved Aussie social media self-help guru influencer on Instagram with 200,000 followers, who lovingly encourages them to do well by preaching to them her empty mantra messages, such as “I am loved. I am special. I am enough.” She peddles her personal products and belief in meditation to her viewers through her brand “Sincerely Cecilia,” and is called Cecilia now and never Sissy.
A decade later at a drugstore she runs into her former best friend Emma from childhood, not seen since they were 12. They have drifted apart over the years. Sissy accepts an invitation to her bachelorette bash hoping to reset their friendship. Afterwards Cecilia joins the others in a week-end ”hen” party hosted in a remote country cabin by her hated bully classmate Alex (Emily De Margheriti), who was as much surprised to see Sissy at the reception as Sissy was to see her.

After her relationship with Emma turns sour, the bitchy Alex became her bestie. When Alex picked on Sissy as a youngster, Emma came to her rescue. At the cabin, the tension builds as the vacuous guests, including Emma’s psychologist partner Fran (Lucy Barrett), pile it on Cecilia that she’s a miserable person for “profiting off the pain of others.” Cecilia  takes it until she no longer can, and when crazed and her defenses are down, her vengeance causes a gore fest-with her being the most sympathetic character, even after her deadly attacks. Alex is viewed as the hissable villain who must face the wrath she created.

The pivotal performance by Dee allows us to see how bullying may never leave our psyche and may lead to mental instability.

Though predictable, its set-up simmers for too long and it’s hardly fresh material, but it’s nevertheless relevant for today’s social media world and its dark satire on bullying is on target.

It screened at the SXSW festival.