While it might be a stretch to call Lucky McKee a 'master of horror' so early in his career, with his second effort, May, (before that he'd co-directed an independent feature entitled Cheerleaders Must Die) he did prove himself as a director with a knack for deftly combining dark humor and straight horror pretty effectively. His entry in Showtime's series once again teams him up with Angela Bettis, in addition to Erin Brown, how most of us know better as the one and only Misty Mundae, former Seduction Cinema softcore starlet extraordinaire.
The story revolves around a lesbian scientist named Ida (Bettis) who works at the Museum of Natural History where she and her horny co-worker, Max (Jesse Hlubick) study bugs. This is more than just a job for Ida, however, as he house is full of creepy crawlers that she keeps as pets. One day a package from Brazil shows up at her door step, she opens it, and finds that someone has sent her a strange specimen that she's never seen before, one that proves to be a pretty aggressive critter at that.
A loser in love, Ida one day finally works up the nerve to talk to the pretty little hippy chick named Misty (Misty Mundae) who sits in the lobby sketching all the time. The two go for dinner and eventually wind up back at Ida's place for the night. Though Ida is worried that Misty will be put off by her pets, her fears are soon found to be for nothing as it turns out that Misty's dad was the professor who taught Ida everything she knows about insects and so she's quite familiar with her many pets.
Soon, the strange bug from Brazil escapes from it's terrarium. While the two girls start looking for it, they can't quite figure out where it's gone. When Misty gets a bit near her ear and starts acting strange, it doesn't take long before Ida starts to realize that there's trouble in her new paradise, but what is the cause of all of this?
While Bettis was nothing short of fantastic in May, here her performance is at times pretty annoying. While that's probably the point and it is in keeping with the traits of the strange character she plays in the film, her incessant baby talking to her pets gets old fast and it does detract from the film, particularly when you consider that up until the last fifteen minutes or so, Sick Girl is more of a lesbian relationship comedy than anything else. Brown doesn't do too bad in her part, though there are a few scenes where she chews a bit of scenery a bit too long. This hampers the first portion of the film quite a bit, but thankfully McKee and company do make up for it in the final few minutes, even if you'll see the ending coming early on.
The best part of the production is the bug itself and thankfully he isn't a completely CGI rendered beastie but is in fact animatronic. He skitters around in a few scenes and pokes out of his just often enough that we know he's still there and the results of his activity that manifests in the finale are pretty keen and should appeal to horror movie buffs.
In the end, Sick Girl is worth seeing as it does build to a pretty fun conclusion and it does make use of some nice, gory effects work. Getting there is a bit of a chore at times but once it all starts to hit the fan the actresses do definitely get better than they were earlier on in the movie. Go into this one with the expectations of getting a quirky horror-comedy and you should come out satisfied, just don't expect a flat out scare film or you'll set yourself up for a disappointment.
The 1.78.1 anamorphic widescreen transfer presents the movie in its original aspect ratio and for the most part, the image looks very good. There is some edge enhancement present in a few scenes as well as some shimmering and aliasing in spots but there's very little to complain about otherwise. Black levels are strong and deep, there are no issues at all with print damage, dirt or debris on the picture and there's a very pleasing level of both foreground and background detail present throughout the picture. It should be noted that this episode isn't nearly as dark, visually at least, as the other three that have hit DVD so far, so it's nice to see the color reproduction looks as strong as it does on this disc. Skin tones look lifelike and natural and the reds are well defined without bleeding through.
Anchor Bay presents Sick Girl in your choice of a Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround track or a Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound track. Both mixes sound very good with plenty of lower end bass response and some very nice instances of channel separation throughout. Dialogue is clean and clear and free of any hiss or distortion. There were a few spots on the 5.1 mix that could have been a little more aggressive but otherwise things sound really good here especially during the last few minutes of the production. There are no alternate language tracks or subtitle options available but the bug sounds sure do sound nice in 5.1!
First up is a commentary track with director Lucky McKee, performers Angela Bettis and Jesse Hlubik, and composer Jaye Barnes Luckett. This is a pretty active talk, with the participants rarely at a loss for words. McKee dominates the conversation a little bit but he is the director after all so it's forgivable. With a few different people from different aspects of the production involved in the talk we get a well rounded look at what went into making the feature and this discussion covers effects work, casting choices, scripting and more. There's a lot of joking around and humor in the track which adds to the enjoyment you'll likely get out of it and it's fun to hear from the performers about some of the 'ickier' aspects of the feature.
From there we move on to this disc's installment of Working With A Master in which many of the people involved with Sick Girl talk about their working relationship with Lucky McKee and give us their thoughts on what he's like as a person and as an artist. The guy hasn't been in the industry all that long and he shows a lot of potential and it's interesting to hear about his tactics and style from the people who are directly involved with some of his projects. Bettis of course praises him quite a bit and they've obviously got a good working relationship together. This segment also does a pretty good job of detailing McKee's career thus far and provides us with some appreciated background information on the guy.
Up next is a featurette entitled Blood, Bugs and Romance which is essentially a length interview with McKee who takes us through the history of Sick Girl's production from the scripting phase through to post production tweaking. He talks about how Bettis and Brown came on board and he details some of the story quirks that appealed to him about the project as well as how he feels about being involved with the Masters Of Horror imprint. Lucky comes across as a genuinely nice guy who loves the genre, which is always nice to see.
After that we're treated to three separate on set interviews with Angela Bettie, Erin 'Misty Mundae' Brown, and the guy who handled the bug duties, Brad McDonald. These are interesting enough talks and it's nice to see Brown get a bit of recognition in the supplements in addition to Bettis. All three seem pretty happy with the project, and everyone seems to have had a pretty good time on the set.
Anchor Bay has also supplied a pretty interesting featurette entitled The Making Of Sick Girl which contains interviews with McKee and all of the principal performers as well as a few of the crew members as well. This gives us a peak behind the scenes of the production and we learn how some of the technical effects were done as well as how some of performers were brought on board. There is some cross over between this piece and the commentary track but it's handled differently here which makes it worthwhile for those who enjoyed the production.
Rounding out the extra features on this release are trailers for the first batch of Masters Of Horror episodes, a still gallery, a Lucky McKee text biography, and, in DVD-Rom format, the original screenplay, and a screensaver.
Anchor Bay's presentation is as good as the previous releases in the series have been so far, Sick Girl isn't the strongest of entries. It is worth seeing for fans of the show or for fans of the two female leads but the over acting hurts the production in spots. Regardless, fans will want to check it out and it makes for a decent rental.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.