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Dark Sister (Sam Barrett, 2014) aka Sororal; Amanda Woodhams, Liam Graham, James Helm, Vito de Francesco, Nicola Bartlett; neo-giallo thriller; Perth, Fremantle, WA; screened 2Apr14 Monster Fest Australia; 96 min.; released in the States in 2020 on DVD and VOD with the new title
Review by R.D. Francis, a giallo fan:
Dark Sister is the (very welcomed) U.S. reboot of Sororal, an Australian neo-giallo that weaves the psychosexual tale of the ratty loft shut-in Cassie (well played by Amanda Woodhams in her leading lady debut; ironically looking like Dakota Johnson’s sister). An artist traumatized by the murder of her mother, Cassie comes to realize the nightmares and daytime hallucinations of brutal slayings she commits to canvas (The Paints of Laura Mars, if you will) are the chronicles of a real life serial killer crisscrossing the continent down under. The “dark sister” of the title (the better title of “sororal” means “of or like a sister or sisters”) is a hooded, rainslicker-esque lookalike who totes around a creepy, deteriorating doll that’s connected to a Satanic cult who needs Cassie to give birth to the Anti-Christ.
Dave Wain, theschlockpit:
Playing Manchester’s GrimmFest back in the autumn of 2014 under its original title Sororal, it had been a frustratingly anonymous few years for Sam Barrett’s impressive film. Denied a physical media release despite its festival familiarity, it wasn’t until four years later, thanks to a radical artwork overhaul and a change of title to DARK SISTER (2018) by its new distributor Wild Eye Releasing, that this antipodean oddity could get some well-deserved love.
“The best giallo films offer an attitude and a wild imagination that I found very appealing,” mused Barrett to Cult Projections in November 2013, and it’s obvious that the beloved Italian genre helped to position this feature firmly in the realm of the neo-giallo. Influenced primarily by Mario Bava – not least ‘The Telephone’ sequence in Black Sabbath (1963) – the Perth-born Barrett establishes a world where Cassie (Amanda Woodhams), a troubled artist, experiences recurring visions of murder and uses her art as a means to escape.
It’s a trippy ride, but one that’s made enjoyable by the texture of the surroundings. Cassie wanders her paint-flaking bohemian three-floor apartment with a fag in hand as cinematographer Ivan Davidov brushes each reel with a European palette, periodically drenching the screen in a vivid red tint. Technically there’s little to fault, with the slightly excessive running time (110 minutes!) exuding style, chic and a level of class that so many imitators fail to reach. Harbouring a similar feel to Helene Cattet and Bruno Forzani’s The Strange Colour of Your Body’s Tears (2013), its languid pace will be repellent for some, while its largely impenetrable narrative may confound far more often than it delights. However, it’s so artistically adept that you should quite happily lose yourself in its beauty and be quite content to have had the opportunity to do so.
Garry Gillard | New: 11 July, 2014 | Now: 18 October, 2021