There are many movies that claim to be a movie “for our times”. Sick lives up that moniker and more.
Written by Kevin Williamson, the screen scribe behind Scream, I Know What You Did Last Summer, Halloween: H20, The Faculty, Teaching Mrs. Tingle, The Vampire Diaries, Katelyn Crabb and directed by John Hyams of Alone fame, Sick’s backdrop is the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. People all over the world are unsure about what tomorrow will bring since there is no cure to the stubborn and deadly virus. They are rightfully paranoid, truly frightened and searching high and low for toilet paper, of all things.
Life as we all know it has become a living, breathing nightmare worse than any horror movie could ever be.
Good friends Parker (Gideon Adlon) and Miri (Beth Million), decide to flee the city and head to Parker’s family cabin to quarantine. This isolated cabin in the woods is more like a mansion made out of logs, not at all like the decrepit The Knowby Cabin in Evil Dead. There is a hot tub outside, a fancy fireplace, a fully-stocked kitchen and thankfully for these Gen Zers, functional and reliable WiFi.
Parker and Miri’s private party is crashed by Parker’s friend with benefits, DJ (Dylan Sprayberry from Teen Wolf). DJ’s surprise visit doesn’t go over well with the emotionally unavailable Parker who wants to remain a casual couple but complicating matters is that DJ has actually fallen in love with her.
Sick’s opening act is immediately followed by a frantic, frenzied and ferocious climax which makes up most of film’s runtime. A masked intruder with the vulnerabilities of Ghost Face but the relentless viciousness and savagery of Jason Voorhees creeps into the cabin intent on slicing and dicing the trio into tiny pieces. One of the highlights of the trio’s battle for survival is an inventive chase scene which leads to a raft in the middle of the lake. The killer’s quarry is forced to scamper around the raft as the psychopath uses the raft as a pincushion from underneath.
It is a really cool scene that will have you pondering what would you do stranded on a raft in a similar circumstance as it plays out. That internal and interactive dialogue that is part of the fun, the experience for slasher film fans and horror fans in general, gets a real workout with Sick as Williamson and Hyams are masters of playing cat and mouse with their audiences.
Of course, this is a Kevin Williamson film so there is a method to the killer’s madness. The killer has a purpose which is explained later on and that reveal is very clever.
As film producer Ally Hilfiger once said: “You gotta just laugh at yourself and let it go and not take things too seriously because life is too short.” These days there are far too many people who cannot take a joke, who take things too literally, seriously and worst of all, cannot laugh at themselves or life in general. These people may be young in age but they aren’t young at heart. It is why comedy, especially stand-up, is in the horrendous state it is in. Sick pokes fun at the pandemic and our absolute lunacy surrounding it. Things that we can and should be able to laugh at and poke fun at today. In that way, it is also a very invigorating and a surprisingly cathartic experience as well.
Sick is inspired by Williamson’s Scream, he wrote the original as well as Scream 2 and Scream 4 as well as acting as a producer on many of them. The killer stalking victims via text mirrors Ghost Face’s creepy phone calls, the fact that the killer is portrayed as human not an unstoppable, indestructible force and the tone of the violence is a lot more sharp, savage, rough, ugly and harsher than your regular slasher film all calls back to the successful Scream formula. As a self-confessed horror fan, Williamson has some playful nods and references to the horror genre in Sick but the mentions are not the core as they are in Scream which was fashioned around that notion.
Due to the nature of the story, the potential body count isn’t grand but it is the quality and not quantity that counts here.
The horror genre has been dominated by North American supernatural movies, which are in large part inferior to their Japanese, Chinese and Korean counterparts, for so very long. It is refreshing to witness the revival of the slasher film. Sick stands apart from the recent homages though as it has veterans Williamson and Hyams at the helm who with Sick hold a slasher masterclass making it the best horror film of 2023 thus far.
Note: Sick was screened at the Toronto International Film Festival.
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