R16: violence, sexual violence, drug use and offensive language.
This page outlines how the classification criteria were applied. We do our best to discuss the content while avoiding spoilers, but please avoid reading this information if you do not want to learn anything about the content of this movie.
Date registered: 28/04/2016
The Chief Censor determined that this DVD should be classified following a complaint from a concerned member of the public.
The complainant was surprised and dissatisfied with the unrestricted M rating, noting that the film contains "strong suicide references; sex scenes including attempted coercion; and violence, including attempted drowning of a parent in a bath".
The DVD feature had been rated M in Australia, so received the same classification here, with a note for sex scenes and offensive language, when it was cross-rated by the New Zealand Film and Video Labelling Body. This is standard practice if a commercial release arrives in New Zealand and has already received an unrestricted rating in Australia or the United Kingdom.
However, the same feature in the UK (under the title Deadly Sisters) had been classified R18 by the British Board of Film Classification.
Because of this disparity, the Chief Censor determined that the Classification Office should independently examine the DVD and assign it a New Zealand classification.
Based on a true story, Perfect Sisters is about teenage sisters, Sandra and Beth, who live with their younger brother and mother Linda, an alcoholic. Linda enters a relationship with an abusive man named Steve, and the sisters’ lives soon become unbearable. After unsuccessfully seeking help from various adults, Sandra and Beth, so disordered from their dysfunctional home life, decide to murder Linda to rid their lives of alcoholism and abuse.
In one scene, Steve and Linda are drinking, while Beth and her little brother are playing cards together. The young boy becomes excited when he wins a game, and accidentally knocks a bottle of alcohol off the table. Steve hits the boy very hard across the face, the force of which throws him to the ground, a scene that is harrowing to watch.
In another scene, there is a fantasy montage that plays when the sisters discuss killing Linda. The montage depicts Linda being thrown down a staircase; her twisted lifeless body is shown crumpled in the stairwell. She is also depicted being tucked in bed very drunk and then sleeping. Beth's boyfriend places a lit cigarette in Linda's mouth, and a laughing Sandra douses her in vodka and lights her on fire.
After discussing several options for murdering Linda, Sandra and Beth decide to get Linda drunk, give her medication, and drown her in the bath. The three are shown together at the kitchen table, the girls refilling Linda's glass and offering her pills. They then lead Linda to the bathroom and draw her bath. Sandra then places her hands on Linda's head and holds her face down in the water. This is a relatively drawn out scene; Linda's face is shown under the water, and her legs flail and kick until she is dead. This scene is disturbing due its length, the nature of the crime, and Sandra and Beth's detached reaction.
Beth is sexually attacked by Steve on several occasions. She is shown going to use the bathroom at night. Steve is shown stumbling out of Linda's bedroom. He advances on Beth, pinning her against the wall. He grabs her arms and pins them against her body and uses his fingers to prise her mouth open. He tries to kiss her. Beth struggles and fights back. She flees to Sandra's bedroom where she sobs, but does not tell Sandra what happened.
In another instance, Steve walks up to Beth in the kitchen and presses his body against hers in a sexually threatening manner, and during a game of poker he puts his foot on her crotch.
Sandra and Beth are also shown walking into their apartment with their brother. Steve is on the floor, having intercourse with a very drunk Linda who is barely conscious. There is no nudity or shots of full bodies, but it is clear by Steve's movements and Sandra's and Beth's reactions that Steve is having sex with Linda, who due to her level of intoxication would clearly not be able to give meaningful consent to this.
There are two scenes which deal with attempted suicide. Linda is depicted in the bath drunk, crying and cutting at her wrists with a razor. Although some blood is visible, it is not particularly gory and is a 'cry for help' from Linda, who feels guilt over her alcoholism and repeated failures. Sandra consoles her.
After Linda's murder, Sandra struggles with guilt. Beth finds her clothed sitting in the bath, pale and foaming at the mouth after attempting an overdose. She is shown with a pill bottle. Beth helps Sandra vomit. Suicide is not dealt with further, and could not fairly be considered likely to encourage emulation, but they are greatly disturbing and shocking.
The film deals with several dark elements including alcoholism, drug use, domestic violence, sexual abuse, suicide and serious physical harm. The stronger depictions are likely to shock, frighten and disturb children and younger teenagers, but older teenagers and adults will be better able to deal with this stronger content within the context of the true crime genre.
The R16 classification will protect children and younger teenagers, without unreasonably limiting older teenagers, who are part of the DVD's intended audience.
Contact the Information Unit if you require further information on a classification decision.