We Are Twisted F***ing Sister! (2014): Film Review

film reviews | movies | features | BRWC We Are Twisted F***ing Sister! (2014): Film Review

By Last Caress.

“Alright, Mister Sister! I want you to tell me… no, better yet, stand up and tell the class: WHADDA YOU WANNA DO WITH YOUR LIFE?!?”

“I Wanna Rock!”

Who doesn’t love Twisted Sister? I know I do. I know my son does too, although that may be thanks to SpongeBob SquarePants’ admittedly excellent reworking of I Wanna Rock: I’m a Goofy Goober. Still, who cares how you arrive at the party? Twisted Sister front man Dee Snider doesn’t care, he just cares that you get there.

Twisted Sister

We Are Twisted F***ing Sister!, the 2014 documentary by Andrew Horn, opens with this clip from seminal UK music show The Tube in 1982 depicting Twisted Sister at what I would call the peak of their career, and then quickly backtracks “3267 shows earlier” to Manhattan in 1972 where guitarist Jay Jay French had grown tired of the pot-heavy, hippified scene from whence he’d sprang, and taken instead to much more glamorous-looking outfits such as David Bowie, Lou Reed, Mott the Hoople and the New York Dolls. He wasn’t overly impressed with the music, mind you (“The Dolls – they look great, but… man, they suck!”), but thought that if he could find a band who looked glam but could actually play, he’d realy be onto something. And so it came that he landed a gig with The Twisted Sisters, a band playing Led Zeppelin and The Who covers whilst dressed fundamentally as women (“We’re dressed as women? Are there groupies for that?” “Oh yeah, you’re gonna get laid a LOT!”). A few miles away in Long Island, a disenchanted teenaged vocalist called Daniel “Dee” Snider was drifting from band to band, honing his craft. Dee was making a name for himself locally as were The Twisted Sisters (who, somewhere along the way, had become simply “Twisted Sister” by this point). Dee liked what Twisted Sister were all about but Twisted Sister, for their part, had been experiencing difficulties with vocalists (they sacked one, another one bailed on them, Jay Jay had a go but wasn’t in truth up to it), and ultimately split altogether. Undaunted, Jay Jay and Twisted Sister founder Kenny Neill revived the band with a new lineup which included guitarist Eddie Ojeda and Dee on vocals.

The band’s move from a covers band to a band playing original music produced a coup d’etat in which the young Dee took over writing duties from band leader Jay Jay, but this poduced a more raucous, rock n roll sound which coincidentally tallied all the more with their on-stage persona, which had begun transforming from an avant-garde house band into a wilder bunch of effeminately attired party boys, frequently holding on-stage drinking competitions, leading the crowd in chants of “Disco Sucks!” and hanging effigies of Barry White (although this act, unfortunately, began attracting the attention of racists blithely unaware that the band hated Barry for his music, not his skin colour).

Twisted Sister

It’s not all rise-and-rise of course; every story has to have a bit of adversity in there somewhere and so it goes for We Are Twisted F***ing Sister!

An epileptic seizure for Eddie Ojeda on a crucial night for them put paid to their chances of being signed to a major label. By the time the opportunity to play for all the big labels rolled back around, their glam look was considered passe. Forcing them back a step or two proved fruitful ultimately however as they retuned and retooled some more, becoming heavier and rockier just as NWOBHM bands like Iron Maiden and Judas Priest were becoming truly global, and spandex “hair” bands such as W.A.S.P. and Motley Crue were on their way to the big time. It’s Twisted Sister’s time. What will they do with it?

As a fan of the music in general and somewhat of the band in particular, I suppose it’s tough for me to gauge exactly how essential We Are Twisted F***ing Sister! is to all-comers. It’s much more of a conventional talking heads doc than, say, Sacha Gervasi’s phenomenal Anvil: The Story of Anvil (2008), a true triumph of the human spirit and in this reviewer’s opinion a must-watch for anyone, regardless of one’s interest in conventional heavy metal from three decades ago. To me though, We Are Twisted F***ing Sister! is nothing less than absorbing, not least because neither Jay Jay French nor Dee Snider were drinkers and still have their wits about them, and provide detailed and interesting commentary throughout (Dee is also highly interesting throughout Dick Carruthers’ more general metal documentary from 2006, Heavy Metal: Louder Than Life). You’ll no doubt already know whether We Are Twisted F***ing Sister! is something you want to see; Dee Snider himself would no doubt rather you just rocked out to the f***ing music, man!

We Are Twisted F***ing Sister! has an Australian DVD release.


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