Sick TIFF Review: A COVID-19 Take on Scream

Sick at TIFF 2022
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Midnight Madness at the Toronto International Film Festival usually attracts some pretty legendary names in genre filmmaking, and this year it is the legendary screenwriter Kevin Williamson. His film, Sick, is a return-to-form, a horror-thriller that feels familiar but not in a way that causes frustration.

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The film follows two best friends who decide to quarantine together in their remote family lake house, only to discover that they might not be alone. The film is interesting because it uses a lot of slasher tropes, but it doesn’t have a large amount of kills, turning it into a combination of slasher, home invasion horror, and survival thriller.

The film has a very small cast due to the nature of the story, which does present a bit of a challenge. Whereas the latter worked because of its ensemble of memorable characters to become a victim (or a suspect), this one attempts a much more intimate vibe to mixed results. The actors are all fine, but no one is good enough to carry the film.

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Horror fans likely know Willaimson’s name as the scribe behind the ‘90s horror masterpiece Scream. With his newest film, his first feature in nearly two decades after a successful career in television, he leans into the legacy he has created. In a way, this film could almost be described as a “COVID Scream,” with several beats that will feel familiar to audiences.

Also Read: V/H/S/99 TIFF Review: A Mostly Mediocre Horror Anthology

Granted, given the fact that the film plays out in a somewhat trodden way, it ends up feeling rather predictable. The twist isn’t super effective and is hardly as insightful or edgy as it seems to think it is. Still, there’s something to be said about the comfort of a well-crafted, familiar horror film, and this film offers the type of lean thrills that the genre so desperately needs.

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COVID also makes for a perfect setting for a horror film. The most effective horror films create a sense of isolation, so setting a film during the COVID pandemic is a perfect excuse to create this forced seclusion. Yet unlike so many other pieces of COVID media, this film does not feel like it was made in bad taste, becoming more of a release of our pandemic-related anxieties than an exploitation of them.

Regardless, what the film lacks in memorable characters, it makes up for in genuinely great horror scenes. The film is directed by John Hyams, a filmmaker primarily known for his work in the action genre, and he brings his penchant for adrenaline-fueled action here, with some setpieces that are among the best you’ll see in any horror movie this year.

Horror fans will be satisfied with Sick, a good, old-school horror flick. It doesn’t break any new cinematic ground, but it takes advantage of its COVID setting enough to deliver some solid scares and an all-around entertaining genre picture. 7/10.

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Sick screened at the 2022 Toronto International Film Festival, which ran September 8-18.

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Written by Sean Boelman

Articles Published: 174

Sean is a film critic, filmmaker, and life-long cinephile. For as long as he can remember, he has always loved film, but he credits the film Pan's Labyrinth as having started his love of film as art. Sean enjoys watching many types of films, although some personal favorite genres include music documentaries, heist movies, and experimental horror.