The Girl From the Other Side, Sissy, and Deadstream are screening as part of the 2022 Fantasia International Film Festival, which runs from July 14 – August 3.
The Girl From the Other Side
The Girl From the Other Side is a ruminative fairy tale about isolation and family. In a place divided by “inner” and “outer” lands, humans fear the curse given when touched by those other beings from the outer lands. But one girl, rescued by one of these creatures, shows no fear. The film tells the story of their bond as it unfolds in the heart of the forest.
With gorgeous animation and a heartfelt story, The Girl From the Other Side is brimming with color and emotion. It is a quick watch at just under 70 minutes, but it nevertheless feels like a full a experience. The story is slight, and the film relies more on mood to carry out its goals. It is occasionally hypnotic in its tranquility, resting on moments of silence or small interactions between the two main characters. It is difficult to find much to be critical of here — it is simply a pleasant watch.
The Girl From the Other Side: B+
Kane Senes and Hannah Barlow’s Sissy is in one sense a satire on the power-of-positivity Gen Z influencer. Cecilia (Aisha Dee) has grown a substantial online following from her mantra-laden self-help videos. Her online presence is squeaky clean, but once the circle light is off, she retreats to her unkempt kitchen and the box of cold pizza in the fridge or channel surfs past all the bad news on TV to get to the trashy reality show. In another sense, the film is about the unearthing of past trauma and the mental unraveling that one character experiences as a result of that reunion with the past. Full of gory horror trappings to boot.
I am of two minds on Sissy. On the one hand, it is slickly made and full of sound performances. Dee carries the film adequately, and supporting performances from Emily de Margheriti and co-director Hannah Barlow are equally strong. The film also takes its time getting to its gnarly horror heel-turn, using the awkward tension of one character being an outsider to a friend group effectively.
On the other hand, I was never certain about the character of Cecilia. The first act sees her alternately delighted and apprehensive about rekindling a friendship with her childhood bestie, making her character hard to read. And as the film develops into the horror movie that it is, it leans on potential mental illness to paint the character.
Now, horror and depictions of mental illness share a long, uneasy relationship, and I don’t want to criticize Sissy merely for its use of the archetypes therein. But I do feel like some nuance is lost in the drawing of character, and thus in the themes of the film as a whole, with the choice to send this character down the path she takes. This ultimately left the last act of the film somewhat wanting, as I found myself searching for depth in a character who had become flattened into an archetype.
Shawn Ruddy (Joseph Winter), a once disgraced online content creator has finally gotten his sponsors back. Ready for some new revenue, he concocts what he hopes will be a massive livestream event. For one night, Shawn will investigate the most haunted house he can find and try to rile up the ghosts inside.
Produced in the found footage vein, Deadstream is a horror comedy that does a good job parodying the annoying, opportunistic online creators who stage reckless and exploitative stunts for a quick buck. Shawn breeds controversy while shamelessly peddling merch and putting on an aggressively enthusiastic personality. To see this personality find itself in genuine supernatural danger is the film’s main entertainment driver. And while this conceit plateaus as the film progresses, filmmakers Vanessa and Joseph Winter make good use of self-aware humor and practical effects to keep Deadstream lively.
As always, thanks for reading!
—Alex Brannan (Twitter, Letterboxd, Facebook)