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TIFF 2022: Sick Review

Sick takes place in April 2020, as the COVID pandemic sends the world into lockdown. With workplaces and schools shut down, some people fear the end of the world. Others use the pandemic as an excuse to party like there’s no tomorrow.

College students and best friends Miri (Bethlehem Million) and Parker (Gideon Adlon) sit at both ends of the spectrum. Miri insists on masking and disinfecting her groceries. Parker couldn’t care less about COVID protocols – mostly because she can’t make out with random hotties while masked.

The two besties decide to socially distance in style and head out of town to stay in Parker’s dad’s cabin. Once they arrive, Parker starts receiving creepy anonymous texts. But weird texts are the least of their problems. After the sun goes down, a masked intruder breaks in and tries to kill them. Trapped and isolated in the woods, Miri and Parker must “socially distance” themselves from a bloodthirsty killer until they find help.

I had high hopes for a COVID-era slasher flick with Kevin Williamson’s name attached to it. But Sick left me wanting.

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Sick is so generic that I spent the first 40-minutes thinking it was setting me up for a Cabin in the Woods-type swerve. Nope. It’s just super basic. Get ready for uninspired dialogue, forgettable characters, and a feckless masked killer with no distinguishing features.

The COVID angle comes into play, but it feels underbaked. Considering the social divide fuelled by masking, vaccines, and lockdowns, you would think the film would find clever way to skewer liberal and conservative stances on the issue.

There is one great bit where a bloody unmasked woman asks a masked stranger for help. It’s a clever commentary on mask zealotry and the hypocrisy that can come along with it. However, the rest of the movie fails to come up with anything half as clever. It feels like the entire film was a setup for that one great moment.

Director John Hyams’ film spends a lot of time pointing out aspects of pandemic life without saying anything meaningful. Showing us people hunting for toilet paper and wiping down their groceries doesn’t affect the film’s plot in a meaningful way. The screenplay could have used a couple more passes to integrate more aspects of the public’s COVID trauma into the horror.

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Sick’s reductive themes would be less of an issue if any aspect of the production rose above mediocrity. The film has a low body count (by slasher movie standards), and the tension, pacing, and atmosphere aren’t anything to write home about.

My biggest issue with the movie is how the camera moves when the killer strikes. Sick uses the same hard-to-follow camera movement action flicks use when they want to hide an out-of-shape actor or lousy choreography. The camera shakes like it’s sitting on top of a tripod made of Jell-O. I enjoy found footage movies with intentionally amateurish camera work, but even I couldn’t follow Sick’s obnoxious cinematography.

If you’re at home looking for something creepy to watch, you could do a lot worse than Sick. But you could do much better, too. It’s a middle-of-the-road slasher movie with solid production values and decent performances. But it’s derivative to a fault. I’ll forget Sick exists by the time my head hits the pillow tonight.

Sick screens as a part of TIFF 2022, which runs from September 8 to 18. Head here for more from the festival.

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