John Hyams’s Sick is interesting because it uses the COVID-19 pandemic as a major part of the plot. There have been movies that have mentioned COVID or have featured scenes where characters are wearing masks, but Sick makes COVID a key element of the plot. Not only is it the framing device of the film, but it plays a key part in the events that take place throughout the movie and it does so in a smart, funny, creepy way that makes Sick an absolute blast of a scary movie.
It’s April 2020 and the pandemic has ravaged the Earth. Parker (Gideon Adlon) and her best friend Miri (Bethlehem Million) are leaving school to go quarantine at Parker’s family cabin, which happens to be a decked-out mansion in the middle of the woods loaded with everything and anything you could want while quarantining. Then, unexpectedly, someone begins to terrorize them and try to kill them. Who is this person? Why are they doing this? How did they know Parker and Miri were at this cabin?
The opening of Sick features a non-main character being terrorized by a random stranger through their phone. The stranger is texting the non-main character, asking him if he wants to party despite COVID being at its peak, and the non-main character goes with it until it starts to get weird. Sound familiar? Maybe a little bit like 1996’s slasher masterpiece Scream? It should because Sick is co-written by Scream and Scream 2 author Kevin Williamson. Wiliamsons’ biting meta humor is all over the film, looking at the COVID-19 pandemic through a satirical lens and the people who didn’t take it seriously enough and the ones who took it too seriously.
Hyams ramps up the scares in Sick, which should come as no surprise coming from the director of 2020’s Alone, which is one of the scarier movies in recent years. With the tension-filled opening, Hyams establishes that nobody is ever safe and you never know where anyone is coming from. In nearly every scene, whether it was Parker and Miri sitting on the couch drinking while watching the news or after the stranger sneaks into the cabin, I found myself scanning every inch of the screen. I was looking in every corner of the frame, squinting to see if the out-of-focus background would become clearer even though I knew it wouldn’t to see if I could catch the stranger before Hyams showed them to us. I was never successful in this. Hyams knew exactly when to pull out the jump scares and he did it to perfection. I jumped in my seat numerous times throughout the film and I know that there were other people in the audience that jumped even more than I did.
Adion and Million tie the film together with their badass, final girl performances. They have genuine chemistry as friends even with Adion’s Parker being more carefree and Million’s Miri being more uptight. Much like the women in Scream, Parker and Miri aren’t stupid. They are strong women who defend themselves against a mysterious psycho. Some of their decisions might have you yelling at the screen, but what great slasher movie doesn’t have that?
Sick is a thrillingly, entertaining slasher, loaded with great kills, tons of jump-scares, and smart writing. Hyams shows that he is an exciting voice in the horror genre and it is a great movie to watch in a loaded theater where everyone is on the edge of their seat.
Sick played in the After Dark section of the 2022 Chicago International Film Festival.
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