By Josh Reilly B.
2022 was an incredibly strong year for the horror genre, with the ever present franchises like Halloween producing subversive, unique installments, with audiences also getting original scares from films like Barbarian and The Black Phone. As of now, the new year has seemingly started where the previous left off. Megan, also stylized as M3GAN, modernized the killer doll genre with a technology-focused approach that prioritized comedy as much as it did scares. That film has, as of now, overachieved at the box office, and is set to dethrone Avatar: The Way of Water this weekend.
Streaming is another platform where horror has thrived in recent years, with many feature length films and series debuting on various online platforms. This weekend, Sick premiered on Peacock, a slasher that fittingly debuted on Friday the 13th of January.
Sick is set during the initial months of the COVID-19 pandemic and tells the story of two college students traveling to an off the grid lake house to quarantine from the virus. In typical horror movie fashion, isolating alone in the middle of nowhere, with most family and friends not knowing where they are (along with some spotty WiFi), wasn’t the smartest idea as the duo have an unwelcome masked visitor. Outside of the first 10 minutes, Sick is largely a slow burn outing, building tension until the conflict rises to its peak.
Sick is essentially a classic slasher film with a masked killer wielding a knife and chasing down a few individuals in an enclosed location. In that regard, it’s not exactly the most unique or original of stories. The two main leads, Parker and Miri, are more or less typical horror lead characters, and neither have a substantial arc in the film. Sick largely gets away with this, though, due to the precision of its execution. It’s an extremely well made film, with smart scares and horror set pieces. The acting is also a positive here, particularly Gideon Adlon.
Sick’s uniqueness also comes, of course, from the backdrop of the pandemic. At times, particularly towards the beginning of the film, it feels like a time machine back to the beginning of 2020, such is the immersive nature of the story and its overall direction. Sick also still remains extremely timely, particularly as the pandemic rages on. Covid is, in many ways, just a plot device to give two leads an excuse to be in an isolated location, but it also serves as some much needed originality throughout. Without too many spoilers, the virus also comes into play when the motivations of the killer are revealed.
The ultimate strength of Sick is its direction from John Hyams. As stated previously, the film takes its time setting up all the pieces of this horror tale, but once it gets going, it’s essentially one long chase/action sequence. To keep up that level of intensity without it getting too much, too repetitive, or downright boring is quite a task, but one that is certainly achieved here. At only 1 hour 23 minutes, Sick certainly doesn’t overstay its welcome but also ends up utilizing every moment, either for exposition or pure horror, and Hyams’ direction largely keeps proceedings from getting stale.
Praise must also go to the script as well, which was written by Kevin Williamson, who also wrote Scream in 1996. Williamson’s work on the Scream franchise, as well as his horror-thriller series The Following, cements him as a legend in this genre, and he ultimately brings another great title to the table here. Again, the bare bones of Sick means that this film isn’t particularly unique, and the lack of character development for the main leads feels like a missed opportunity. Williamson isn’t reinventing the wheel here, nor is he trying to. At its heart, this new film is an entertaining intense, and classic horror outing.
With a seemingly silent release on Peacock, Sick is a timely slasher that uses the COVID-19 pandemic as a plot device and backdrop for a traditional horror outing. From the screenwriter of Scream, the precision of this film’s execution makes it well worth a watch.