Film: Sisters


"There was no body because there was no murder. Repeat."
Dr. Emil Breton

A cult psychological thriller/horror film from 1973, directed by Brian De Palma. It was the first of his films in the thriller-horror vein, and featured Margot Kidder in an early starring role as well as De Palma regular character actor William Finley, who would go on the following year to star as the Phantom in his Cult Classic horror rock musical Phantom of the Paradise.

The plot concerns a murder, witnessed by a reporter from a neighboring apartment window, committed by a young model who, it becomes apparent, was born one half of a set of conjoined twins. The film is, in part, a homage to the works of Alfred Hitchcock, and in particular borrows from and references Rear Window and Psycho.

This film contains examples of:

  • Berserk Button: For Dominique, any man getting intimate with Danielle.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Danielle seems gentle and sweet, but suffers from trauma-induced Split Personality, one of her personalities a violent murderess.
  • Carrying a Cake: Grace, finding the birthday cake during the investigation of Danielle's apartment, proudly bears it out to the detectives as proof of the existence of Danielle's twin, only trips and drops the cake onto the unimpressed detective's shoes.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The psychiatric ward is mentioned by Grace's mother in the first half of the film. It doesn't make an appearance until toward the end of the film.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: Dr. Breton is at first just a face in the audience of the opening sequence game show.
  • Compelling Voice: Dr. Breton uses a deep, calm voice while hehypnotizes Grace.
  • Discretion Shot: During Grace's hallucination nightmare, when Dr. Breton operates with the cleaver.
  • Downer Ending: Or maybe Bittersweet Ending, if you assume that Dr. Breton deserved to die, and that Danielle/Dominique will be arrested for murder. Still, even at best, Grace remembers nothing of the murder she was investigating, courtesy of Dr. Breton's hypnosis...and the private detective is left watching the couch holding the body, somehow still thinking it'll lead to something big.
  • Jewish Mother: Grace's mother, while seemingly not Jewish, constantly pesters he about settling down with a man of respectable profession.
  • Murder the Hypotenuse: Danielle, as "Dominique", murders Philip and then Dr. Breton to keep them away from Danielle.
  • My Sibling Will Live Through Me: Dominique's death induces Danielle to try to keep her alive by periodically becoming her sister in her mind, la Norman Bates.
  • My Sister Is Off-Limits!: Rare ( and deadly) female version - Dominique is jealous and protective towards Danielle.
  • Mysterious Watcher: For the first half of the film, Dr. Breton.
  • Nightmare Face: Danielle during the murder.
  • Nosy Neighbour: Grace, with good cause.
  • Police Are Useless: The detectives are reluctant to even investigate the murder, preferring to argue with and belittle Grace in the lobby of the apartment building while Danielle and Dr. Breton are cleaning up the evidence above.
  • Split Screen: The murder clean-up.
  • Stalker with a Crush: Dr. Breton follows his ex-wife Danielle a year after their divorce, demanding she come home with him and standing outside her apartment at night.
  • Stalking Is Love: Danielle eventually submits to Dr. Breton's attention, and embraces him lovingly after his death.
  • Tragic Dream: Dr. Breton hopes to cure and remarry Danielle.