Dir. John Hyams (2022)
Two friends retreat to a cabin to quarantine together after being exposed to COVID. They might not be as alone as they think.
CAUTION: MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS
I’ve avoided too many personal details when writing my reviews largely because I’ve tried to stay fairly anonymous, keeping my personal/work life separated from this little hobby of mine that I like to share with you fine folks. This movie changed my mind a bit on that, so while I’ll get to the review in a bit, I wanted to digress a little to explain my feelings towards this film. I promise, I will try my best not to make this like the start to an online recipe and keep things as pertinent as possible.
While I love to write reviews on horror movies for my tens of adoring fans, in my real life I’m an ICU nurse. I spend my nights caring for the sick and the dying, coming face to face with the most horrific parts of humanity and trying my best to save people when I can and provide comfort to those that I can’t. Needless to say, these last few years have been a clusterfuck of horrible outcomes and distressing situations, made all the worse by politicians who stretch the definition of stupid to their farthest possible limits and a general public that has revealed itself to be the most selfish populace in the history of the world. Before COVID, I would sometimes go a month without coding someone, sometimes two without seeing someone die. During the pandemic, we would have an entire floor-full of patients, and not one of them would leave alive. Sometimes we would lose 8-10 people over a 12 hour shift. It’s important for the public to understand that, when reading those horror stories on your social media from the people on the front lines of this pandemic, they were not only 100% true but also indescribably horrific.
While I would love to complain about the ways that these events personally affected me, such as the fact that I don’t sleep nearly as well as I used to and I sometimes hear vital signs alarms when I’m not even at the hospital, the reality is that it would be absurd of me not to recognize the fact that so many people have it far, far worse than I do. Families the world over lost loved ones to a disease that felt like it was on the verge of destroying the world, and, unlike almost any time in world history, they lost them inside buildings they weren’t allowed to enter and rooms they would never see. The sick died holding the hand of someone they didn’t know, and while COVID did usually focus its nefarious endgame on those who were already infirmed or were of advanced age, it affected hundreds of thousands of generally “well” people in ways that we still don’t completely understand and for long enough that many still have terrible symptoms despite being long past infectious. And all of this while college kids held “COVID parties” and thousands of the suddenly-mentally-impaired alternated between demanding horse dewormer to treat the disease and denying its very existence. To say that I have been… frustrated… would be an understatement.
It is for all of these reasons that I was dying to watch Sick. It promised a film that didn’t just use COVID as a backdrop but rather as a plot point, a movie that dealt with the pandemic itself in a new and intriguing way. To be honest, during the opening of the movie (and for about the first half hour or so,) the film’s handling of the pandemic received nothing more than an eye roll from me. The plot seemed to be a little dated and relying way too much on COVID protocols and society’s general frustration with the ever-changing rules to drive the story, and it felt like a film that would have absolutely no replay value once we were all able to move on from the irritations of the last several years. But a movie with Kevin Williamson writing the script, there was no fucking way I was going to check out so quickly. Thank God I didn’t, because Sick is one of the better films referencing the pandemic that I’ve seen, and Williamson manages to capture a lot of the magic of his legendary 90’s slashers that helped to recreate the genre in his image while delivering a blistering takedown of all of the bullshit we’ve had to endure.
Don’t get me wrong: Sick does not succeed at the same levels as Scream or even I Know What You Did Last Summer. Those are two of my favorites, though, so that’s hardly a knock on the film. It’s a clever film with a wicked twist and it’s got some truly great kills, suffering only from its relatively small victim pool. Director John Hyams (who is awesome in his own right) does a stellar job of crafting a throwback slasher, a movie that screams (see what I did there?) 90’s with a modern flair. The film is filled to the brim with tension, proceeding at breakneck pace once the action kicks off heavy. And boy does it kick off heavy.
While I tend to find the younger generation of actors more annoying than compelling, the trio of Gideon Adlon (who plays Parker), Bethelehem Million (Miri) and Dylan Sprayberry (DJ) are fantastic as millennial college kids just trying to survive their quarantine. Marc Menchaca (Ozark) and Jane Adams (Happiness) are stellar as well, rounding out a cast that is one of the better ones in modern slasher-dom. If Kevin Williamson knows about anything, it’s how to tune into the teen horror market, and Sick hits that demographic with a vengeance. While the film may not have the staying power of his earlier works, it’s an awesome time capsule of The Pandemic Era and a pretty damn good movie altogether. It’s funny, brutal, and a delightfully fun popcorn movie, and you can’t ask for a whole lot more than that.
I won’t get into the twist of the film, though it’s probably not particularly surprising if you’re like me and heard that there was a twist in the film. What I will say is that I am entirely empathetic towards the circumstances for all of the reasons with which I opened this review. The Morrigan has struggled with long COVID for quite a while, and her initial infection was almost severe enough to require hospitalization. I was quite tempted to find myself in almost this exact situation, and I can’t tell you the unkind things that I would have done to the people flaunting their “freedoms” to be an idiots knowing that they were endangering the lives of someone that I care about. I was personally lucky during this pandemic, and I somehow avoided losing even a single loved one to all of this madness (despite having many family members that could be counted among the dumb.) Had I been less fortunate, I can’t say that I would handle things any differently than Williamson’s characters, though perhaps I would have been a tad less elaborate.
Who this movie is for: Slasher fans, 90’s horror lovers, Anthony Fauci
Bottom line: A delightful slasher that just oozes 90’s nostalgia, Sick is the COVID horror movie that you didn’t even know you needed. Kevin Williamson has another hit in a career full of them, and Hyams hits a home run from the director’s chair. The acting is fantastic, the story is compelling, and if you don’t find yourself a little angry with all involved by the end of the film, you’re a better man than I. This one is streaming for free on Peacock, and it’s absolutely worth a watch for anyone who is a fan of Williamson’s previous work. And let’s be honest, if you’re a horror fan in general, you’re a fan of Williamson