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[Panic Fest Review] CHICKS Depicts the Raw and Regurgitative Bonds of Sisterhood

Still from CHICKS (2023), written and directed by Geena Hernandez - Panic Fest 2023.
Courtesy of Geena Hernandez

Enveloped in a hot pink fever dream, Chicks is a provocative exploration of freedom, femininity, and empowerment. Best described as Mean Girls (2004) meets Midsommar (2019), the short film’s bright fuchsia exterior hides something far more unnerving beneath its sugary surface. Written and directed by Geena Hernandez, Chicks surpasses all expectations of mean girl horror. Its small but exceptional all-female cast features Nicole Marquez-Davis, Jena Brooks, Maddie Moore, and Lilliana Simms.

Chicks follows the classic early 2000s plot of an ordinary teenage girl visiting a new friend for a sleepover. As viewers, we anticipate the evening to take an unpleasant turn into bullying and hazing –– but surprisingly, Polly (Marquez-Davis) is welcomed warmly into the fold by her new besties, Lizzie (Brooks), Kelly (Moore) and Jazz (Simms). The evening is a vibrant pink haze of alcoholic drinks, karaoke, and dress-up: all the hallmarks of any good teen slumber party. Until that is, Polly is seen throwing up a bloody mass that looks disturbingly close to an embryo. Deciding to engage with the night's madness, Polly has no choice but to go along with their strange antics.

Still from CHICKS (2023), written and directed by Geena Hernandez - Panic Fest 2023.
Courtesy of Geena Hernandez

Chicks is a near-perfect film. It offers audiences many interpretations of femininity and sisterhood. Hernandez delivers a psychedelic fantasy of girlhood and female friendship but also shows that there is more to Lizzie, Kelly, and Jazz than the perceived perfection we see in them, keeping us constantly surprised by the girls in Chicks.

They are kinder than we anticipate and more dedicated to their sisterhood than expected. Their intentions seem both clear and clouded. Like the lore of their universe, their power is shrouded in a mystique that Polly herself cannot help but be drawn to. Consequently, she embraces her power, and we can’t help but feel ecstatic for her when she does.

Like Chick’s motifs, the visuals make it an outstanding artistic venture. Chris Violette’s cinematography is adaptive, engaging the audience in whatever atmosphere is conveyed. Similarly, Jon Violette’s score is chameleon-like and genre-shifting. As the girls venture into the woods, the drumbeat is primal and intoxicating, like a heartbeat or perhaps the rhythmic pulse of an ultrasound machine as it drifts over an unborn child.

Chicks is a fascinating reminder that the bond of sisterhood is what we make it. For Polly, it is acceptance and friendship, as well as a regression into her most primal self –– a shucking of her meek outer skin and home-grown fear in exchange for inner strength. As with Dani in Midsommar, our pride and joy for Polly outweigh any concern. Polly has finally found her flock and is ready to take flight.



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