Antique doll collector Angie Anderson (Sharon Stone) is attacked then imprisoned in a maniac’s apartment with nothing but a raven and a dead body for company.
Sharon Stone was a key player in the erotic thriller/ “psycho-bitch-from-hell” subgenre throughout the late 80s early 90s. This run of mostly mediocre suspense flicks arguably peaked with Basic Instinct in 1992 before being slain by the flaccid Stone starring Sliver in 1993. While many regard Fatal Attraction as the catalyst feature, traces of its themes are evident in the likes of Play Misty For Me back in 1971. The subgenre evolved over time, fusing facets from various horror off-cuts before manifesting into a more widely recognised style following the success of Fatal Attraction in 1987. Slasher elements are also evident along with traits of 80s softcore erotica but, in retrospect, Scissors, which arrived in 1991, seems to be more of a prototype to the swathe of psycho thrillers that followed it. While sharing similarities with Single White Female, Mother’s Boys and The Crush, other more methodically plotted films like Final Analysis, Raising Cain and Pacific Heights skated on the outskirts but were far less femme focused than the aforementioned.
Even though it is technically neither an erotic thriller nor a “psycho-bitch-from-hell” horror (in the traditional sense), Scissors, which arrived at the outset in 1991, features a wealth of comparable traits, along with lurid physiognomies from the sleazier side of De Palma and latter day Hitchcock. Stone plays the protagonist victim: a traumatised twenty-six year old virgin (!) with a penchant for collecting/ repairing antique dolls and a crippling fear of men. Angie regularly attends therapy sessions with her rigid analyst Dr Carter (Ronny Cox) but otherwise lives a normal life, until the day she is attacked by a ginger-bearded maniac in the elevator of her apartment block. The traumatised Angie takes refuge with her neighbours: an actor and his crippled artist brother (both played by Steve Railsback) who is immediately established as a sexual deviant with a maniacal glint in his eye.
Writer/ Director Frank De Felitta showed great promise with his debut feature Dark Night of the Scarecrow but bodges the shocks and suspense scenes in Scissors, while instilling a tepid, made-for-TV air. Co-screenwriter Joyce Selznick (niece of David) is also to blame. The first half of the script is drudging and ridden with hilariously rotten dialogue that sounds even more ridiculous when delivered with conviction. When asked by her Dr Carter how she knows her attacker wasn’t a woman, Angie screams in response: “Because women don’t have red beards!”. And the laughs don’t stop there. Bar the initial attack scene, the closest we get to high octane is watching Stone repeatedly try to throw a blanket over a raven, which is actually more entertaining than it sounds but hardly gets the pulse racing. The drama and direction are slipshod at best but Stone is impressive, despite her every attempt at conveying despair being mired by orchestral overkill and sterile supporting performances. Ronny Cox is also decent as the doctor but the rest of the cast are gratingly wooden. A bizarre final third goes someway to rectifying the slipshod thrills from the first two acts, but Scissors is a mostly tepid excursion through intriguing yet infantile terrain. Stone is a strong, reputable femme-fatale/ maniacal icon within a subgenre that never delivered a masterpiece, and this early thriller is not one of its best.
Words: Dan Goodwin