Sister, Sister

Sister, Sister (1988)
Anchor Bay Entertainment
Cast: Eric Stoltz, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Judity Ivey
Extras: Commentary Track, Trailer, Deleted Scenes, Director Biography

During the audio commentary on the newly released DVD ’Sister Sister’, director Bill Condon reveals that the original script for the film was entitled ’The Louisana Swamp Murders’ and dealt with a brother and sister who enjoyed killing tourists, grinding them up, and then feeding them to an alligator. I wish that I could have seen that movie. As it stands now, ’Sister Sister’ deals with Lucy (Jennifer Jason Leigh) and Charlotte (Judity Ivey), two sisters who have turned their ancestoral home into a bed and breakfast. It’s clear from the beginning that both sisters are a bit strange and that they are hiding some sort of secret. Things begin to fall apart when Matt (Eric Stoltz), a man on vacation from Washington, D.C., visits the B&B and is immediately drawn to Lucy. Charlotte tries to intervene, but Lucy is completely taken with Matt. Soon, a murder takes place and the dark secret is revealed.

’Sister Sister’ piles on the Southern Gothic flavor, but it ultimately collapses under its stereotypical story. The film does toss in some nice twists and turns, and several good red herrings, but once the secret is revealed, it’s a bit anticlimactic and upon further examination doesn’t make much sense. And the finale would make M. Night Shyamalan blush. Leigh and Ivey are both very good in their roles, as is Benjamin Mouton (who you may recognize as Julia Robets’ dad from ’Flatliners) in a supporting role.

While ’Sister Sister’ may not have the impact of director Bill Condon’s later ’Gods and Monsters’, it does show an early example of his visual style. (Remember all the shots of that creepy gas-mask in ’Gods and Monsters’?) Condon gives the film a dreamy look, and usual many visuals motifs (especially water) to help tell the story. The DVD from Anchor Bay Entertainment certainly helps to intensify the visual impact of this film.

’Sister Sister’ is presented in an anamorphic widescreen and is letterboxed at 2.35:1. The image is a bit soft, and does show some fine grain, which is somewhat surprising, as most of Anchor Bay’s releases look nearly perfect. There are also minor defects visible on the source print, such as lines or white spots. Still, given the low-budget roots of this film, the image is clear and you won’t find a better presentation of this film.

Improving on the video, is the nice Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack. This mix makes nice use of the surround sound speaker to bring to life a thunderstorm and some other unusual sound effects in the film. The dialogue is clear and audible and there is no hiss on the soundtrack. As stated above, the DVD contains an audio commentary by director Condon, who reveals at the beginning that he has no intention of doing a scene specific commentary. Instead, he tells the back story of how the film was made and then critiques the film and describes why it doesn’t work. (!)

The DVD also includes three deleted scenes, which are letterboxed at 2.35:1, but haven’t been restored or cleaned up. These scenes add little to the story. A trailer for ’Sister Sister’ is presented here and is also letterboxed at 2.35:1. I don’t think that this is a theatrical trailer, as it contains some brief nudity. And finally, we have an in-depth bio of Bill Condon. ’Sister Sister’ didn’t live up to my expectations, but it is commendable to hear a director critiquing so candidly his own work, and it is interesting to see Stoltz and Leigh in a film that is completely different from the teeny-bopper movies that they had been doing just prior to making this.