Brian De Palma went through a period in the 70s and 80s when he was essentially imitating Alfred Hitchcock, not just drawing influence from him in the way that every single American film director has, but actually directly aping his style and thematic preoccupations. He earned a lot of stick for this, but I quite liked the way he didn’t just hearken back to the classics but seemed to try and update them as well, veering into slightly nastier territory as Hitch himself started to do towards the end of his career. The first attempt he made at this was Sisters, his first thriller film and something of a critical and commercial breakthrough for him, and he even roped in regular Hitchcock collaborator (brilliant composer Bernard Herrmann) out of semi-retirement to further emphasise his influence.

Like much of De Palma’s early work, it ends up having a lot of the more worrying aspects of Hitch’s films, but this is tempered by the odd smidgeon of the same genius. It’s a violent and disturbing film, with an atmosphere of threat and danger, and there’s a constant, uncomfortable thread of voyeurism and faint misogyny which may well be a deliberate ploy to unsettle. There are also some snazzy technical experiments – plenty of split screen and POV shots, some of which look horrifically dated while others hold up pretty well. Ultimately, although it’s not a pleasant watch for various reasons, you can always distract yourself from the 70s shonkiness by spotting the numerous film references and looking at it like it’s some kind of formal experiment.

SISTERS
Full Tilt Hitchcock10
Hitchcock was kind of fucked up though4
Bernard Herrmann's self-referencing score8
That kind of cool, kind of shoddy feel you get from a lot of 70s films7
Lingering feelings of creepiness towards women4
Bechdel Test Passes
  • Features more than one named female character
  • The female characters talk to each other
  • They talk about something other than men
Bechdel Test Failures
  • n/a
7Overall Score

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