By Matthew Moorcroft
- Directed by John Hyams
- Starring Gideon Adlon, Bethlehem Million, Dylan Sprayberry, Joel Courtney
It may seem like an eternity ago, but Kevin Williamson was once the king of the slasher genre. With the double whammy of Scream and I Know What You Did Last Summer, the game was changed. Gone were the days of scared teenagers, clueless adults, and summer camps gone awry. What was in was self-reflexivity and a meta knowledge of itself. Teenagers that had grown up with slashers were the norm now, and the style was modern, hip, and fresh.
Outside of the occasional Scream stint, Williamson kept mainly to TV, so it’s kind of a shame his grand return to the genre that once made him the hottest name in Hollywood is stuck on Peacock as a quiet, almost non-existent release. And this is especially a shame as Sick is, for lack of a better term, sick as hell fucking hell. It’s everything you could want in a slasher – great kills, moody cinematography, and Williamson’s sly, winking dialogue that just pops off the screen, regardless of how corny some of it is.
And that’s really surprising too, considering how south a premise of “home invasion during the height of the pandemic” could have gone. But as we’ve seen with last year’s great Soderbergh joint Kimi we are starting to get a hang of doing genuinely interesting things with COVID in movies, and Sick is no exception. The main story actually hinges on it’s inclusion, and the reveal as to what actually caused the events of the film is timely, true to life, and even a little anger inducing. After all, we are only less then 3 years out from the onset of this hellscape and the memories of the quarantine, the parties from people who didn’t give a crap, and the anti-maskers are all fresh in our minds. And this could have easily all gone wrong, using the pandemic in a way that was cringy or worst of all, misaligned. But instead Williamson uses the real life reactions – both over the top and understated – to great effect and crafts believable characters from that speck of time.
And who better to bring it to life then DTV maestro John Hyams, director of the wickedly great Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning? Hyams, who has been making a name recently in sturdy horror affairs, brings both his kinetic direction and a sense of unmatched tension. Every shot is calculated and yet rough, the shaky cam feels like less of a gimmick and more like an extension of the escalation. The elongated chase scene that takes up the middle of this is one of the best sequences in horror I’ve seen in quite some time, upping the ante on every occasion and letting up for only brief seconds of reprieve. If Hyams wants to make horror movies the rest of his career I’d say do it, he’s absolutely killing it at the moment.
There is also something to be said about the economical pace of it’s storytelling to boot. I’m not normally one to pry about the “economics of story” cause I think it’s mostly bullshit – plus I like just sitting with movies – but Sick is to the point and doesn’t overstay it’s welcome. It’s fast, lean, mean, and sharp, which ironically lets it stay with you longer just for how relentless it ends up getting. If you love the Scream chase scenes, you’ll love this.
And I, for one, love my Scream chase scenes, and while it’s nowhere near a Scream 1 or 2 level of quality, barely anything is and this is still a fantastic return for one of our previous greats. Totally down for more of this kind of stuff if he is willing. Just let me see it on the big screen this time.