Sick is exceptionally paced and provides slasher thrills with breakneck intensity, but loses traction during a wobbly landing that needlessly overcomplicates an otherwise cutthroat thrill ride.
The below is an advanced review out of Beyond Fest. Sick does not yet have a release date.
It's no shock that a slasher co-written by Kevin Williamson goes as hard as Sick does. Williamson and Katelyn Crabb infect Williamson's Scream blueprint with "COVID-19 Horror," instigating terror while under quarantine orders. Sick is breakneck, effortlessly vicious, and leaves you gasping for air — but that's all before the whiplash of its COVID-19 Horror twist. Director John Hyams is punctual and proficient when riffing on Scream's Casey Becker opening death or hyping intensity during pulse-pounding chase sequences. Williamson and Crabb write knife-to-throat tension in the most straightforward formula of Scream meets Friday the 13th meets COVID-19 lockdown protocols — then the complications of coronavirus storytelling take an awkward swerve.
Pandemic timelines place Sick around April 2020, when Americans were still figuring out how to protect themselves from invisible COVID-19 droplets. College students Parker (Gideon Adlon) and Miri (Bethlehem Million) escape Petri-dish-dirty dorms to the former’s idyllic lakeside mega-cabin, with no neighbors for miles. Parker is the freer spirit who complains about wearing her ordinary white-and-blue surgical mask when symptoms aren't showing, while Miri always straps on her much thicker custom pastel mask because she has an at-risk father she's scared to infect. Parker swears to Miri that they'll spend isolation having fun like their "Drink every time Fauci is mentioned on TV" rule — until not only Parker's hookup buddy DJ (Dylan Sprayberry) invades their bubble, but an anonymous, all-black-dressed killer.
Upfront, Sick is a relentless marathon of cat-and-mouse stalks that "replaces" Ghostface with a ski-masked individual swiping a hunting knife. It's Grade-A lean, aggressively mean, and blisters through dangerous action scenes like a bull in a log cabin vacation home. Anyone can trace shared DNA between Scream and Sick to laptop messenger SOS texts that don't go through to the very Ghostface movements of the unknown assailant. Parker and Miri desperately fight for their lives as a madman targets two vulnerable girls doing nothing more than riding out stay-at-home orders, as efficiently as the great slasher staples have previously accomplished.
That's what's so frustrating. Dropping a home invasion scenario into government-issued quarantines is a genius horror setup. Williamson and Crabb retrace all our early preventative measures, from social distancing to sanitizing groceries to the anxiety of hearing a single cough in public. Sick captures a vulnerable and volatile American moment, and its execution never feels biased or propaganda-ish like in the failed experiment of Dashcam — but then Sick reveals its psychopath. An element of "COVID-19 Rage" attempts to serve as cathartic… entertainment? Yet, Williamson and Crabb betray the effectiveness of Sick with a convoluted coronavirus freakout that doesn't play as smoothly. Elements of pandemic carelessness become a confusing look for all characters, albeit based purely on reckless human impulses. I'll admit, there were moments when my crowd erupted with rowdy cheers when I could not, stuck pondering the deeper meanings of cheering at graphic demises.
To say Sick ends with divisive fury is just about all I can reveal without spoilers, so that's what you get — but "divisive" should be in all caps. For a while, Sick feels chummy with something consistently on-attack like Hush or The Strangers while nailing the "COVID-19 Horror" formula of finding familiar genre frights in lockdown landscapes like The Harbinger. Gideon Adlon and Bethlehem Million portray all of us struggling with misconceptions (read: misinformation) about youth being a protection from the virus or choosing which safety precautions we acknowledge. Sick ranges pandemic reactions and (mostly) does well to observe instead of voice opinions while delivering slasher ferocity that compares Hyams to Wes Craven in favorable lights (well, more like doorway shadows). The hunt-stalk-eliminate primality of Sick is always its crowning material, which cannot be understated. If Terrifier 2 is a rebirth of ‘80s slaughter spectacles, Sick is the second coming of right-behind-you ‘90s slashers.
Sick keeps COVID-19 in the background and emphasizes punishing violence for a speedy two-thirds.“
Unfortunately, there's no ignoring what the ending muddles. Sick keeps COVID-19 in the background and emphasizes punishing violence for a speedy two-thirds until we're forced to reconcile our feelings about a pandemic that still spreads. Williamson and Crabb take risks pushing killer motivations where they do because "horror shouldn't feel safe" — but that's not the issue with Sick and its pile-on finale. What stumbles is the last-minute contextualizing of characters given new data and how Sick doesn't require — or earn — crowd-dividing swings. Hyams drives Sick with a barbaric briskness that seems unstoppable until the brick wall that is Williamson and Crabb's climax, complicating what could have been cut-and-dry supremacy. Sick doesn't want to take a stance until it oddly, unintentionally — maybe — backs into one, almost like tripping an Olympic sprinter inches before the finish line.
This story originally appeared on: IGN - Author:Matt Donato