Sick Review: Pandemic Slasher is Quick and Slick
By Daniel Rester
A new horror film with Kevin Williamson’s name attached? Sign me up. The Scream (1996) writer returns with Sick, which he co-wrote with Katelyn Crabb. The film, directed by John Hyams, is a slasher that works the COVID-19 pandemic into its plot. Other filmmakers have already used the pandemic to dangle plots on, but Hyam’s film is one of the smarter exploitation flicks to do it so far.
Sick cold opens with a man named Tyler (Joel Courtney) shopping in a convenience store in April, 2020. He practices social distancing, wears a mask, and desperately tries to find toilet paper. The atmosphere is uncomfortable and even a small cough sends heads turning in the market. Many viewers like myself will get PTSD just seeing this unfold, but then the filmmakers add a stalker to the scene too to elevate the tension. It’s a dynamite opening sequence and Courtney sells it well.
After Tyler, we get to the main characters Parker (Gideon Adlon) and Miri (Bethlehem Million). They’re two college friends heading to quarantine at a huge and remote lake house. Parker’s fling, DJ (Dylan Sprayberry), also shows up to hang out despite Miri’s reluctance. The three are soon attacked by a masked man with a knife.
Sick is a lean and mean slasher – at just 83 minutes – and reminded me of Hush (2016) with its minimal characters and remote house setting. Williamson and Crabb come up with plenty of suspenseful cat-and-mouse situations and give some playful dialogue to Parker and Miri too. There’s also some commentary on how people treated the pandemic’s seriousness, from some being responsible to others brushing it off. The screenplay is deceptively simple on the surface, but Williamson and Crabb keep it clever while also being tight.
Hyams brings the script alive efficiently and the cast members all give serviceable performances. The director does well at revealing the killer hiding in backgrounds while his victim actors take the foreground. Such blocking throughout adds suspenseful moments where audiences will either grip their seats or yell at the screen. One scene involving a raft was especially impressive to me. The slow build of situations is accompanied by a terrific music score by Nima Fakhrara as well, who often gets a lot of mood out of single loud notes spaced apart.
Sick falls back on shaky camerawork during running scenes too often, going against the excellent photography in other places. While Williamson and Crabb keep the surprising turns coming, none of their characters ever land as memorable; there’s certainly no Sidney, Billy, or Stu here. The film could have used an extra ten minutes in building on its pandemic scenario too as much of the middle section pushes it aside.
While Williamson has certainly done better work in the slasher subgenre before, it’s still nice to see his return with Sick. He, Crabb, and Hyams cook up enough thrills and kills to make the film a short stretch of bloody fun. Sick doesn’t have many memorable elements outside of its pandemic edge, and I wish the characters were more interesting, but it’s an enjoyable and well-crafted ride for the horror crowd nonetheless.
My Grade: 6.5/10 (letter grade equivalent: B-)
Running Time: 1 hour and 23 minutes
Sick began streaming on Peacock on January 13th, 2023.