Starring: Margot Kidder, Jennifer Salt, William Finley
Director: Brian De Palma
Running Time: 93 mins
Sisters is an American film about a young journalist who witnesses a brutal murder in the apartment across from her own. However, after alerting the police to no avail, she sets out to find the truth behind the crime herself, and uncovers a harrowing history.
A genuinely exhilarating watch for fans of mystery, horror, crime and everything in between, Brian De Palma’s Sisters is a brilliant piece of work from beginning to end.
Paying homage to classic Hitchcock thrillers while developing its own strikingly gritty atmosphere, the film blends thrillingly intricate mystery with unsettling eeriness all the way through, building and building in intensity as it powers towards an electrifying finale.
At first, the premise seems fairly simple. Almost a mash-up of the plots of Psycho and Rear Window, Sisters follows a journalist who witnesses a murder in the apartment across the way from her, and desperately tries to bring the criminals to justice without the help of the authorities.
That crime/mystery element of the story is enthralling from the start, as we follow her down a rabbit hole of clues that are either infuriatingly lost or just don’t quite make sense. In that, Sisters is a brilliant exercise in carrot-and-stick mystery, dangling an easy solution to the whole affair right in front of you, yet always just out of reach.
Director Brian De Palma brings extra intensity and atmosphere to the mystery with a clever blend of Hitchcockian and contemporary style. From dynamic camerawork to a spectacular use of split-screen, Sisters is just as visually impressive as it is narratively engrossing, and that fantastic style adds so much to the experience of diving further and further into this fascinating mystery.
But beyond just crime and mystery, there’s always something a little stranger bubbling in the background here. Much like Psycho, it’s a film very grounded in reality, but there are things that don’t quite fit together when looked at from the perspective of the real world.
As a result, the crime element of the story is given an extra spark with complex, confusing and ultimately electrifying horror throughout. Sisters never goes over the top with its horror – much like Psycho – as it balances gory violence with effective, unsaid terror, but it does develop a genuinely exciting and unsettling air about it.
It may only run for just over an hour and a half, but Sisters packs so much into a short runtime, building and evolving dramatically from a reserved crime-mystery in its early stages to a spectacular and properly exhilarating horror in the final act.
All in all, I absolutely loved Sisters. If there are any negatives, I would say that it is at times a little too derivative of Rear Window and Psycho, but even so, the film develops its own identity with more modern sensibilities while paying homage to those classic thrillers.
It’s exciting, atmospheric, intriguing and shocking throughout: a really excellent blend of horror, crime and mystery all in one. And that’s why I’m giving Sisters an 8.1 overall.