Studio: American International Pictures (AIP)
Starring: Margot Kidder, Jennifer Salt, Charles Durning, William Finley, Lisle Wilson, Dolph Sweet
Directed by: Brian De Palma
Running Time: 93 min.
Synopsis: A murder happens in an apartment and witnessed by a neighbor, but the body is hidden by the time the police arrive. A woman who lives in the apartment has a twin sister who might be the killer.
Many people just think of Brian De Palma as a Hitchcock rip-off. I have to disagree with a lot of those people. I will admit that his style is very Hitchcock influenced and he does pay proper homage to the great director, but De Palma has a style of his own. If you have seen many of his films you will see that (especially with his classic film and in my opinion his best movie, Scarface). De Palma’s film Sisters, which is his very first horror film is heavily influenced by Hitchcock and could pass for a Hitchcock film. Like many other filmmakers that try to duplicate Hitchcock style, De Palma comes very close.
The film is about a model, Danielle (Margot Kidder) who meets a man, Phillip (Lisle Wilson) while being guests on a game show. The two go out to dinner and while having drinks they are stalked by Danielle’s ex-husband, Emil (William Finley). The two of them loose him and go back to Danielle’s apartment. Phillip and Danielle spend the night together and in the morning Phillip finds out from Danielle that her twin sister, Dominique is staying with her because it is their birthday. Phillip runs out to the store to fill a prescription for Danielle and surprises her with a birthday cakes for the twins. Meanwhile back at the apartment, Danielle is having fits because she needs her medication. Unknown to Phillip, he accidentally knocked over her last few pills down the sink while he was in the bathroom.
When Phillip returns he surprises Danielle (or is it her sister?) with the cake. He brings it over to her while she is lying on the sofa bed. He gives her a knife to cut the cake with, but instead she stabs him repeatedly. Phillip tries to make it over to a window where he tries to wave for help, but it is too late for Phillip. Luckily, a woman from across the way, Grace (Jennifer Salt) who happens to be a reporter for the local paper sees the murder. Grace calls the police and her and two detectives go over to Danielle’s apartment.
When they get to the apartment there is no blood and no body. They search the place and there is nothing. The police believe that Grace was seeing things are playing some type of prank. Grace decides to do some detective work herself and gets help from a private eye, Joseph Larch (Charles Durning) to help her prove that Danielle or her twin sister Dominique murder somebody and they are covering it up.
As I mentioned before, the film has a Hitchcock vibe and this is a story I can see Hitch making into a movie. There is great suspense throughout the film and a good solid story. The cast is very talented and all of them deliver in their roles. De Palma also uses his trademark split screen effect where he shows two different things or two different points of view happening at the same time. De Palma would use this style in many of his horror films and thrillers.
A few of the suspenseful scenes that stood out to me was of course when Phillip is murdered and Grace is watching it happen from her apartment and also another scene where Grace is watching Danielle’s apartment while Larch is searching the place while Danielle is out. It gets hairy when Danielle and her ex-husband, Emil show up while Larch is still in the apartment and Grace tries to signal him to warn him that they have returned.
Another element that I noticed that is very Hitchcockian is that in the beginning of the film the main character we are focused on is Danielle, but once Phillip is murdered, our attention is now focused on Grace. This is very similar to Psycho, where Janet Leigh’s character is the main focus and it gets changed early on when her character is killed. Now Danielle doesn’t die and is still in the rest of the film and is still an important part of the plot throughout, but we kind of see her from afar and the point of view has changed to Grace’s. We don’t even get introduced to Grace until the murder of Phillip happens and we see her witnessing it. It was a very interesting story shift that didn’t damage the pace of the film in any way.
Along with the great talents of Margot Kidder and Charles Durning, the film features some De Palma staples such as Jennifer Salt, who was featured in De Palma’s The Wedding Party and Hi Mom! She was also in Midnight Cowboy and in the TV series Soap. Another staple is horror veteran, William Finley who has been in a ton of De Palma films like The Wedding Party, Phantom of the Paradise, The Fury, Dressed to Kill, and The Black Dahlia. He has also been in a few Tobe Hooper films such as Eaten Alive, The Funhouse, and Night Terrors. Sisters also features veteran actor, Dolph Sweet who is best known by 80’s fans as “Chief” in TV’s Gimme a Break!
One other note, De Palma got the idea for the film when he read an article about Siamese twins, Masha and Dasha Krivoshlyapova from the Soviet Union. Sisters is a good horror movie and is also a good suspenseful film. It is worth checking out and it is one of Brian De Palma’s best.