Before she snatched the world’s attention in BASIC INSTINCT, a young SHARON STONE (DEADLY BLESSING) starred in what has got to be one of the most amazingly bizarre psychological thrillers ever made. I assume that only the lack of availability on DVD can be blamed for 1991’s SCISSORS not being an established cult classic. It’s just wall-to-wall insanity and if you get past the obscene improbability of it all and relish rather than reject STONE’s comical wide-eyed hysterics, it’s a mesmerizing midair collision that mutates into a baroque mad tea party. It’s so nuts it might make you nuts too.
STONE portrays peril-prone Angie Anderson, a 26-year-old sexually repressed, virginal freelance doll restorer who sleeps on her couch. One day while returning from shopping for a pair of scissors to add to her vast collection, a man with a dubbed voice wearing a long fake red beard tries to rape her in an elevator while calling her a bitch. She stabs him with her scissors and he replies while exiting, “I’ll be back!” She meets and is taken in by her neighbors, twin brothers both portrayed by STEVE RAILSBACK. One brother is a neat and presentable soap opera star named Alex and the other is a scruffy longhaired artist confined to a motorized wheelchair.
Angie and Alex soon develop a thing for each other but their love is curbed by her fear of sex, her fear of his creepy brother and her fear of men with long red beards. Her pushy hypnotherapist Dr. Carter (RONNY COX) who is married to an ambitious politician (MICHELLE PHILIPS) is little help with anything besides dredging up Angie’s repressed memories of sexual abuse with a pig puppet. Eventually Angie is invited to a doll restoring job interview in an apartment apparently decorated by DARIO ARGENTO and she finds herself trapped there with a dead red bearded man, a scale model of the city, artwork and television screens reflecting her life and a black raven that keeps screeching, “You did it!” From there things get weird…
I caught SCISSORS on late night cable while I was a young pretentious art student and I lapped it up. It was beautiful, the creepy dolls, the pig puppet, the carnival music, (not to mention the age inappropriate virginity) all spoke to me at the time. I returned to it again ten years later when I was a know-it all -video clerk and could not believe how ridiculous the plot was and how over the moon atrocious the acting was. Seeing the film now (it’s on Netflix streaming and it looks fucking amazing) as a cynical, shut-in cat herder I have come to the understanding that I was right on both previous accounts. The movie is beautiful and it is wretched and together those two things equal super awesome. I’m now pointing the blame for my affection of SCISSORS directly on Italian horror films. Italian horror films have taught me that something can be supremely entertaining and still not make a lick of sense. Slap some subtitles on this bronco and presto! A masterpiece!
SCISSORS was directed by FRANK DeFELITTA who authored AUDREY ROSE and THE ENTITY and directed the kindertrauma classic DARK NIGHT OF THE SCARECROW. Who would have ever thought he was such a lunatic? Dude is obviously smitten with HITCHCOCK and DePALMA and must have viewed SUSPIRIA at least once. The story may be all over the place throwing MacGuffins and red herrings about like confetti, but it’s always compelling and there is always something indescribably peculiar in the air. When STONE goes to grab the doorknob of the space she shall find herself trapped in, she discovers it is squishy rubber and when it falls from her hand it bounces away. It’s a moment of simple surreal dread and it’s absolutely aces. Once trapped, there are many such dream logic visuals and the use of color and light wonderfully compounds the unnerving effect.
As I more than implied before SCISSORS can easily be taken in as gonzo b-grade camp. On the other hand, there’s nothing stopping you from taking it seriously either. I’ll leave that up to you. STONE may be embarrassingly amateurish in this, but if you can take your eyes off her you’re a bigger man then me. STEVE RAILSBACK plays twins, can I stress that enough? Twin movies are always of interest and I have to say the twin effects, though not DEAD RINGERS caliber, are still pretty impressive.
Anyway if you want to watch a movie that reeks of crazy and is a smidge trashy but is also undeniably easy on the eyes and you’re a fan of overdone set pieces and visuals and can ignore giant gaping holes in logic, you have to check out SCISSORS; it’s like visiting another planet for 105 minutes. I’m not sure how long SCISSORS is going to be on Netflix streaming so check it out as soon as possible and spread the word (especially to fans of Italian cinema.) Whatever you do though, please don’t run while you watch it!