Co-directed by brothers Roberto del Piccolo and Maurizio del Piccolo, and written by Roberto, this tense Italian indie slasher features a maniacal killer nicknamed ‘Little Sister’ (or Igor depending on who you ask) who kidnaps, tortures and kills anyone he can get his hands on in the local woods.
Igor initially comes across like a Leatherface derivative (via the freaks in the Wrong Turn series); though the film grants a decent back-story upon this pitiful soul, don’t be fooled, this is no attempt to create a killer in which we can sympathise with a la the 2007 version of Halloween or Texas Chainsaw 3D (2013). Instead this film is much more subtle in that respect and does not ask us to excuse any behavior but rather understand the method behind the madness. That is, the method behind everything except the physical walk of the killer which seems to only exist as homage to his classic horror namesake.
The film itself, after a brief and curious introduction, rapidly changes pace – taking the audience into torture porn meets Wrong Turn territory. A couple are immediately shown strung up, the unfortunate victims of brutal violence at the hands of the bloody faced, seemingly disfigured, Igor.
With the scene now set we are introduced to our two leads, Tom (Mattia Rosellini) and Sheila (Holli Dillon), and although dialogue is utilised sparingly we soon and easily bond with the couple. The lack of dialogue also helps to set the atmosphere, which draws the viewer in thanks to the clever use of sound. This in turn helps to build tension in an organic way and provides the first indication of the brothers’ ability to manipulate our senses before giving way to visual brutality.
Many slasher films can get by with just tension and scares, but creating a cohesive and believable plot is a much more difficult task. Often these sorts of films forget about weaving in a back story, resulting in the need to force in the reason for a character to lay bare an exposition – which takes the viewer out of the created world. Writer Roberto del Piccolo doesn’t quite manage to avoid this pitfall but makes a commendable effort for two key reasons.
The first is the way in which the backstory is presented initially via breadcrumbs dropped throughout the film, with a little hint of misdirection. This allows us to piece most of the information together, which is a terrific method of engaging the audience with the film. However a significant portion of this information is provided via what is tantamount to found footage and comes across as a little heavy handed in comparison to some of the subtlety engaged in the first half of the movie.
While the second reason is the pacing, My Little Sister is a film with very little filler; every shot is deliberate and vital in helping to hit its required objective – be it tension, fear or even to gross the audience out. Here Roberto del Piccolo really does adhere to the saying of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, whereby “perfection is achieved not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away”.
Now I am not saying that My Little Sister is perfect. Far from it; the killer’s visual aesthetic, while realistic, fails to grab the imagination in the way other iconic slasher villains do. The vocal dubbing is mixed at best and there are several plot conveniences, although it has to be said none of these minor gripes are enough to detract from the enjoyment this lean, tense thriller provides.
At one hour fifteen minutes long My Little Sister does not overstay its welcome; the decision to all but eschew any real subplots keeps the pacing tight and the need for additional exposition to a minimum as previously mentioned. By focusing only on the key constructs of the genre (as well as a tremendous use of audio) the brothers have created something that makes it easy to be absorbed into their world and at times can captivate the viewer.
Arguably it has more than a touch of the modern American slashers about it but the inherent Italian sensibilities add an extra and subtle dimension to the proceedings. My Little Sister is a solid effort that unfortunately I fear will get buried amongst a plethora of inferior homogenous offerings if it does not receive the promotion it deserves.
The film will be released in Ireland and the UK on DVD and VOD formats on 13th March 2017 via Left Films. It will be available in the US and Canada from 30th April 2017, courtesy of Wild Eye Releasing.