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Miramax // R
List Price: Unknown
The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic heavily impacted the moviemaking industry, but it has also already made its way into the storytelling itself. Scream creator Kevin Williamson and co-writer Katelyn Crabb boldly set a cat-and-mouse slasher during the height of the pandemic with Sick. It aims for the wit and the mystery of the Wes Craven-directed classic, but with social commentary on the height of the pandemic. Sick is an evocative, taut slasher with heart-pounding results.
Set in April 2020, Parker (Gideon Adlon) and her friend, Miri (Bethlehem Million), are trying to cope with the sudden changes to their lives as a result of the pandemic. They're in college and are disappointed that their journeys of self-discovery are brought to a halt. Nevertheless, the pair decided to quarantine together at Parker's family lake house. They're completely isolated, with miles in between them and their nearest neighbors.
Sick swiftly places the audience back into the days of the early pandemic before much was known about the virus. Picked over grocery store shelves with one-way taped arrows on the aisle grounds set an unsettlingly familiar tone. Williamson and Crabb poke fun at some of the early misconceptions of transmission, as well as the long-lasting strategies that would prove effective. It also sets the stage for how Parker and Miri end up moving far out away from society and all those who could potentially answer their calls for help.
The mysterious killer makes first contact with their potential victims via text message. It's a clear callback to Scream, but with a modern twist on the creepy, anonymous phone calls. Some are willing to play along with the messages, while others are quicker to block the number and try to move along with their lives. However, Sick wisely finds a way to separate Parker and Miri away from technology, forcing them to fight for survival the old-fashioned way. They only have one another to rely on, as they get increasingly crafty with the resources they use.
Williamson and Crabb try to find the humor in the pandemic. It's difficult subject matter, but they traverse it the best that they can. The dramatic heft comes further into the narrative, although it never goes all in on it. There are several twists and turns that extend beyond the typical whodunnit, allowing the film to feel richer than the average slasher. But, some of its major reveals are a bit too on-the-nose for its own good, exploiting the worst of the pandemic without having much to say about it.
Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning director John Hyams aptly implements his action filmmaking style in Sick. Once Parker and Miri face their intruder, the film never gives viewers the chance to catch their breath. Every horror set piece and chase scene is shot with remarkable movement, instantly pulling the audience to the edge of its seat. Cinematographer Yaron Levy fills the dark picture with browns and yellows, highlighting the gorgeous, yet haunting lake house.
Williamson's signature is left all over Sick in more ways than its narrative. There are several winks that Scream fans will instantly recognize, but an iconic killer isn't one of them. Hyams brings a nondescript stalker to the screen, who is frequently found lurking around in the background behind Parker and Miri. This time around, there isn't a cinematic mask that makes them particularly memorable. However, they certainly leave their mark with the brutality that they leave behind.
Parker and Miri fight tooth-and-nail to survive their assailant, never accepting the fate of being victims. They're light on characterization, but we root for them because of their refusal to stop fighting by any means necessary. Some audiences may question whether it's too soon to make a movie like this, especially with some of its revelations. However, there's no denying its effectiveness in being both scary and gripping. Sick is a white-knuckle thrill ride with no shortage of adrenaline-pumping suspense.