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Siblings (2004)

by on 2012/10/24

“Well, this shit ain’t that bad.”

* * *

As much as Siblings qualifies as Halloween CanCon, it could work as well as one of Gru’s bargain bin picks. It cost just $2.99 before tax, and looks like a hybrid of “her” styles: Tim Burton’s Series of Unfortunate Events, The Addams Family Orphans, perhaps A Very Hitchcock Halloween.

And yet it only looks that way. In time, it reminded me more of Weekend at Bernie’s and Very Bad Things. Less funny — even darkly so — than “soap operatic” in tone, the story follows four kids’ misadventures in the wake of their parents’ deaths.

Pretty grim stuff. What makes it far grimmer, however, are the scenes establishing the parents’ lack of pathos, their predatory abusiveness, their open, casual, and unapologetic sexual advances and violence. This movie really wants us to accept the children’s extreme behaviours by making their guardians comparatively worse.

So you won’t find pop-Goth stylistics here, whatever you glean from the packaging. What you will find — and a more pleasant surprise — is a mind-boggling cast of Canadian heavyweights, absent from the cover image, and barely legible in the fine print credits. Some of those actors include Aaron Abrams (Young People Fucking), Martha Burns (Michael Tuesdays and Thursdays), Nicholas Campbell (The Englishman’s Boy), Sarah Gadon (A Dangerous Method), Tom McCamus (The Sweet Hereafter), Sarah Polley (Splice), and Sonja Smits (Videodrome).

Almost as surprising, most of these “names” played thankless, challenging roles, deeply flawed characters: abusers, cheaters, liars, the profane, and so on. Fortunately, their skills make them eminently watchable. My favourite scene was an awkward exchange with Martha Burns and Sarah Polley, one which had nothing to do with the overarching plot.

Another oddity is the production’s holiday setting. Like Black Christmas, Decoys, or Nightmare Before Christmas, it feels torn between year-end occasions. A snippet of The Spoons’ “Nova Heart” notwithstanding, the soundtrack is dominated by carols in unusual styles: drum and bass, electronica, and nearly-metal guitar. It’s not that I hate the music as such, it’s just that I hate it here. The hyperkinetic audio doesn’t mesh with the visual approaches of restrained palette, more conventional angles, and slower-paced editing.

Overall, Siblings is a weird, patchy beast. It’ll probably have its defenders, but I suspect they’ll be cultish absurdists. It’s definitely not for children, though the story features them. It has little gore for all its violence, no nudity despite suggesting sex, and too few interesting ideas beneath its decorative, colourful language. For me, the best reason to see it was watching familiar players in unfamiliar parts.

* * *

Rated 14A

85 minutes

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  1. The Event (2003) « Geek vs Goth

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