“Sick” – A Gripping Exploration of Pandemic Paranoia and Terrifying Thrills
Exploring a contemporary and highly relevant topic, such as the ongoing viral pandemic, poses a fascinating challenge for horror filmmakers. It can be both a brilliant move and a source of frustration. “Sick,” an outstanding new slasher film, immediately introduces viewers to some sobering statistics: as of April 3rd, 2020, there were 273,880 reported COVID-19 cases in America, with 42 states having already issued stay-at-home orders that covered 97% of the country.
Directed by the skilled genre craftsman John Hyams, the rest of “Sick” is a straightforward chase movie, set in a remote and dimly lit mansion. While it takes some time for the action to kick in, roughly 38 minutes, the film’s subtle relevance and unique pacing begin to appear forgivable and even slyly clever.
Intense Opening Sets “Sick” Tone
The creators of “Sick” waste no time in unsettling their audience. We are first introduced to Tyler (played by Joel Courtney) as he navigates the barren shelves of a Walmart-style superstore. In a familiar yet well-executed scene, someone begins to stalk Tyler, sending him messages from an unknown number and taking covert photographs. Tyler’s stalker conceals their identity behind a balaclava and eventually follows him back to his apartment, brandishing a menacing hunting knife.
What sets this opening scene apart is its unexpectedly varied pacing, especially considering its leisurely start. Before the attack on Tyler, the film allows ample time for viewers to soak in the eerie atmosphere of his apartment. This is a stark contrast to the vast and sterile environment of the Walmart-like store, adding depth to the setting.
Character Dynamics in “Sick”: From Tyler to Parker
The violence in this setup scene is both shocking and impactful. Director Hyams employs hard cuts during action sequences, extreme but coherent close-ups, and subtly disorienting long takes. The attention to detail in this generic setup is easy to overlook, particularly because Tyler disappears from the storyline shortly after.
However, Tyler’s exit from the story signals the arrival of the true protagonist of “Sick”: Parker, portrayed by Gideon Adlon. Parker is a self-absorbed university student who retreats to a secluded lake house with her loyal friend Miri, played by Beth Million. Miri watches with a mix of amusement and exasperation as Parker pursues simple pleasures like tanning during the day, controlling a remote fire at night, and indulging in a joint with some snacks before bed. The outside world occasionally intrudes on Parker’s vacation, but she handles it with ease. This includes her somewhat clueless partner, DJ (Dylan Sprayberry), who unexpectedly shows up at the cabin without prior notice. Parker also faces an anonymous texter who sends creepy messages, but she dismisses it as a minor inconvenience.
John Hyams: Master of Suspense and Shock in “Sick”
What makes “Sick” truly thrilling is its adherence to a set of easily understood rules, as hinted by cryptic post-“Scream” text messages, such as “Wanna party?” received by both Tyler and Parker. After about 38 minutes, DJ encounters yet another balaclava-wearing stalker, just as relentless as the previous one. The ensuing chaos is marked by bloodshed, severed limbs, and a frantic chase. While there are some expected plot conveniences along the way, questioning the integrity of Wi-Fi and car tires isn’t the priority for the audience this type of movie caters to.
Hyams, known for films like “Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning” and “Alone,” excels at keeping viewers engaged. He immerses us in various settings that Parker and her friends navigate and occasionally shocks us with bursts of violent action. Hyams once mentioned that a movie truly comes together in the editing room, and “Sick” serves as further evidence of this theory. While “Sick” bears Kevin Williamson’s name, it’s primarily Hyams’ show, showcasing vivid sound design, well-executed cuts, and genuinely surprising violence. Few genre filmmakers consistently deliver the jolts needed to keep audiences on the edge of their seats, but Hyams is exceptional in this regard, setting us up only to knock us down repeatedly.
“Sick”: Thrilling Horror with Minimal Politics
Enjoying “Sick” may hinge on your willingness to have your expectations challenged and your patience tested. Some scenes may initially appear overly long and thinly developed, which could be a point of contention. The film may also lack enough plot-driven drama to make its pandemic-era setting more than a backdrop for another thrilling and gory experience.
That said, “Sick” doesn’t aim to provide a deep political commentary, even though the identity of the balaclava-wearing antagonist is provocative. Fortunately, this isn’t the type of film that delves into political intricacies. “Sick” is exactly what it appears to be: a mean-spirited and exhilarating ride.
- Sick” is a gripping slasher film that cleverly incorporates the pandemic’s backdrop, utilizing unsettling statistics to set the stage for a suspenseful storyline.
- Directed by John Hyams, the movie effectively employs varied pacing and intense sequences, particularly in its portrayal of stalking and violence, showcasing the director’s skill in building tension.
- While some critics note its occasional pacing issues and limited character development, “Sick” is ultimately recognized as an entertaining and thrilling cinematic experience, focusing on its visceral impact rather than attempting deep political commentary.
Micajah McGregor, Editor in Chief of FanFest.com and renowned entertainment journalist, graduated from USC with a focus on Journalism and Film Studies. With an MBA from The Wharton School, he began his career at “PopCulture Pulse” and has been instrumental in shaping FanFest into a prime entertainment news source. Known for his financial analysis of celebrity net worths, Micajah received the ‘Digital Editor of the Year’ award in 2018. He’s also an active blogger, sharing his passion for superhero films and ’90s TV. Contact him at [email protected] for engaging entertainment insights.