Dir: Douglas Buck. US. 2007. 92 mins.
When will filmmakers ever learn how risky it is to re-make a classic, especially when it's in the same language' Does it take a special form of hubristic death-wish to deliberately invite comparisons between your film and that of an acknowledged master of horror like Brian DePalma, who first filmed the same material, with the same title, in 1973'
Gus Van Sant's remake of Psycho is the definitive example of the remake folly, but Douglas Buck, the director of the new version of Sisters, is barking up the same mistaken tree. No matter how good the new version is, it will seldom be seen as anything more than different, rarely something better. This version is in fact a bit different, but in no way better.
Buck is largely known for his edgy short films, and while the new film is well done in places, it never achieves anything other than high-camp, whether intentionally or not. As yet it has only been a festival fixture: showing at Sitges, Gerardmer and most recently in the SXSW Spotlight Premiere - this is likely to continue, with genre festivals most likely the keenest exhibitors.
Despite the producing presence of Edward R Pressman, the keeper-of-the-flame who also produced the 1973 version, in addition to well-known if slightly shop-worn actors like Stephen Rea and Chloe Sevigny, the film is unlikely to gain significant commercial distribution in the US. Nevertheless, enough nearly laugh-inducing gore drenches the film to give it what will surely be a robust life on DVD for dedicated horror fans, and the inclusion of known quantities like Rea and Sevigny may result in middling foreign sales as well.
Rea plays the nefarious Dr Lacan (presumably an in-joke reference for literature majors to the real Dr Jacques Lacan (1901-1980), a notoriously difficult French theorist who overturned psychoanalysis in the middle of the last century. The sisters of the title are, shall we say, complexly embodied by French actress Lou Doillon, especially in her role as Angelique, who is apparently meant to be taken as a grand beauty but who some might find to be slightly if unintentionally grotesque.
Sevigny is a dogged journalist investigating Dr Lacan at great personal risk, and who ends up by the closing credits to be far more involved in the story than she ever expected to be.
The background features of the entire story - far too baroquely complex to even be hinted at here - are doled out throughout the film, but never with DePalma's efficient clarity, but rather in confusing fits and starts. The dialogue is occasionally awkward without being foreboding, convincing character motivation is sometimes lacking, and the writing in general lacks the arch crispness and haunting quality demonstrated in the finest specimens of the genre.
Perhaps the greatest howler in the updating of the story is the decision to hide a body inside a large-screen television set.
Yet it is also true that the scenes in the last third of the film are so grotesque and blood-saturated as to achieve a kind of kitschy, yet purposeful transcendence. A dream sequence, especially, produces particularly powerful images that suggest Buck is a filmmaker with visual talent that will ultimately manifest itself more tellingly in a subsequent film. Still, carried a smidgeon too far, these resonant moments sometimes all too easily induce laughter, and not of the uneasy variety.
Edward R Pressman Film Corporation
Grosvenor Park Productions
No Remorse Pictures
John J Campbell