Brian De Palma
- Margot Kidder as Danielle/ Dominique Breton
- Jennifer Salt as Grace Collier
- William Finley as Emil Breton
- Charles Durning as Joseph Larch
- Lisle Wilson as Phillip
Brian De Palma’s first foray into thriller-horror in Hitchcockian style, Sisters is an unpredictable and unnerving movie that shows off what we’d all come to see as staples of his work and how successfully and creepily he’d craft them.
Danielle Breton is a French-Canadian model living in Staten Island and occasionally using her talents for an acting job. She has just appeared on a certain game show and has just been asked out by one of the contestants Phillip. The two hit it off over dinner where Danielle briefly mentions her twin sister Dominique, and how she hasn’t seen her for a while. Once at her apartment, the two share a passionate evening, but nothing can prepare anyone for the events the following morning. He is brutally stabbed by what appears to be a crazed Danielle( or is it the previously unseen Dominique?). Fatally wounded, he makes it to the window and using his own blood, spells out help. In the apartment opposite, industrious journalist Grace Collier witnesses the incident. She reports it to the police, but due to her history of exposing corruption in the ranks she is laughed off. Even when she takes detectives to Danielle’s apartment, there is no sign of a body and she is dismissed. But Grace knows what she saw and thanks to curiosity, she begins digging into the case. Grace also employs an old-fashioned private investigator Joseph Larch; who may be out of the game currently but still has a nose for this sort of mystery. Getting to the bottom of all of this is what Grace plans to do, though she doesn’t realise she’s opening a particularly twisted can of worms that includes Danielle’s former husband who is always sneaking around and much more.
Sisters was the first film from De Palma to be what many would cite as an inception of his trademark direction and themes. You’ve got the nods to Hitchcock, through stalking camerawork that recalls Rear Window and duality that points to Psycho. Split screens are employed in spectacular fashion, lasting for minutes while twinning together things that gain more impact as the film continues. In fact, doubles and duality are displayed in a very unusual and off kilter way that has you uneasy, and allows De Palma to fiendishly pull the wool over our eyes and then surprise is. Throughout the often crazed and baffling story, De Palma’s sure hand and control over what he is directing is in full effect, announcing the many more thrilling movies that would follow this peculiar yet riveting thriller. There is something quite surreal about Sisters, typified in a couple of menacing yet beautiful dream sequences, filmed in black and white and filled with an arch toying with perception( very befitting of the psychological horror we are presented with). Danielle and Dominique are both purposefully mysterious, leading us to not quite know which is which and just what the true agenda may be. By the end certain things are revealed, just not in the way you’d expect them to be which allows Sisters to be something that won’t leave your memory quickly and puts the mind into overdrive. As creepy and chilling as the film is, De Palma laces a lot of moments with a sort of gallows humour that catches you off-balance, but does a lot to keep the story and our watching of it something unexpected and not at all typical. Added to this is an underlying examination of the way that women can be patronised and used by men; both Danielle and Grace experience many things at the hands of men, in particular Grace whose job as a reporter combined with her gender suffers stigma regarding her talent and choice of lifestyle. This little bit of commentary is yet another string to the movie’s impressive bow. Now some logic is a bit lacking in Sisters, but you’re that engrossed that the tiny flaw can be swept away and forgiven, especially for how minuscule it is. A screaming and alternating score comes courtesy of Bernard Herrmann. The score triumphs with sudden switches in sound and tempo that infuse necessary jolts of terror and spooky mystery.
Margot Kidder pulls double duty as the twins that give the film its title. Displaying very different personas that may actually be false or at the very least mendacious, Kidder blend them together with a jagged result of questions and uncertainty that is a plus for the gripping movie. Kidder plays the varying characteristics of both twins with a deliberately ambiguous approach, lending to the fact that we can never be sure whether it is Danielle or Dominique we are witnessing at any given time. Margot Kidder is very impressive, but it was Jennifer Salt that really caught my attention. Filled with a deep enthusiasm and courage of her own convictions, Salt naturally plays the crusading Grace, who gets more than she bargained for. There is a tenacity within the diminutive Jennifer Salt that suits the role nicely and although her insistence is often the thing that gets the better of her, we want her to succeed and unravel what she can. William Finley is menace personified as the creepy ex-husband skulking around, particularly in the way he uses his intense eyes that never seem to blink and appear to follow you. Charles Durning is wise ass and witty as the private investigator roped into the proceedings while Lisle Wilson has a small but unforgettable part of the unfortunate man who ends up butchered
An eerie and suspenseful movie of stylistic approach and creeping kookiness, Sisters represents the auspicious first entry into the art of scaring and spooking audience that De Palma clearly enjoys.