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 “soraral” 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.
The reviews on this mixture of giallo and the supernatural haven’t been kind, with critical insight that state this third film—from what I feel is an impressive, developing resume—by writer-director Sam Bennett is merely “style over substance” and his work is “amateurish” and “unrealistic.”
Since when did an Italian Giallo—or any of its Spanish knockoffs—of the ‘70s ever put “realism” or “substance” over what were always the main priorities of the giallo genre: art and surrealism rooted in Impressionism and Renaissance art.
The giallo resume of Dario Argento, the leader of the genre, is the cinematic equivalent of Salvador Dali’s melting clocks and M.C Esher’s impossible objects and staircases to nowhere. Giallo is all about the utilization of oozing color palates and oddball light sources, nonsensical supernatural red-herrings to nowhere, psychic links to killers hidden in POV, whispered poetic passages, hypersexual oddball red-herring characters, rape and murdered moms, junk science (about sunspots, Y chromosomes, eye-memories, love-chemicals), pedophile fathers, doctors and detectives riddled with kinks and ulterior motives, and a general, overall incoherency set to a soundtrack of jazz-rock noodling and chanting choirs.
And if that makes me a giallo snob, then dip me in yellow paint, feather me in crystal plumage, and dump me in the town square and let me enjoy my Stendhal syndrome episode so I can shed my tears for my mother.
Yes, I’ve watched Paolo Cavara’s Black Belly of the Tarantula and Sergio Martino’s The Case of the Scorpion’s Tale—and every bloody tale concerned with insects and animals—more times than any one person should. I accept Dario Argento’s what-the-fuck plot twists of an intelligent chimp wielding a straight razor and cute girls with psychic links to insects with glee. And regardless of how much I enjoy the films of Riccardo Freda, Umberto Lenzi, and Ruggero Deodato: I’m burnt out on them. But I love the era and adore the genre and I want more . . . but my yellow has turned to brown. And while I know they’re box office hits, I pine for the giallo era over the endless cycle of The Conjuring sequels and the Blumhouse universe’s jump scares.
And that’s how films like The Editor and Dark Sister become part of my beloved giallo library. Bravo, Mr. Bennett. It feels like home to me. (I suggest you pair the Italian-made Evil River with Dark Sister for your double feature this evening.)
Theatrically released in its homeland in 2014, Wild Eye Releasing acquired Sororal—giving it a new title and artwork—for a U.S. streaming and DVD release in 2018. They’re now offering it in 2020 as a free-with-ads stream on TubiTV along with several other films from their catalog.
Disclaimer: This movie was sent to us by its PR department. As always: you know that has nothing to do with our feelings on the movie.