We find ourselves in a fascinating era for horror cinema, marked by the innovative visions of filmmakers like Jordan Peele, Ari Aster, Robert Eggers, and Jennifer Kent. Streaming platforms such as Netflix and Shudder have also facilitated the exposure of low-budget thrillers to a broader audience. Despite the genre’s evolution towards diversity and experimentation, there remains an enduring appetite for the classic, cold-blooded thrillers that have defined horror for decades.
Enter “Sick,” an underrated slasher that eschews reinvention for a return to the genre’s roots. Released earlier this year on Peacock, this home invasion film might not break new ground, but it’s a chilling reminder of the power of tried-and-true horror formulas.
Set against the backdrop of the uncertain days of March 2020, “Sick” follows best friends Parker (Gideon Adlon) and Miri (Beth Million) as they opt to quarantine at a secluded lake house owned by Parker’s parents. Their peaceful isolation takes a dark turn with the unexpected arrival of Parker’s on-again, off-again boyfriend, DJ (Dylan Sprayberry), and the intrusion of a mysterious, knife-wielding home invader. The ensuing struggle for survival sets the stage for a suspenseful and unexpected narrative.
Co-written by Kevin Williamson, known for his work on the iconic “Scream” franchise, “Sick” doesn’t just follow the slasher playbook; it revels in it. The script mirrors the same efficiency and ruthlessness that defined the 1996 classic, showcasing a love for the genre that echoes through the film.
The movie’s brutal cold open immediately grabs the audience’s attention, reminiscent of the suspenseful tactics employed by the “Scream” franchise. The use of anonymous text messages, coupled with nerve-wracking hand-to-hand fights, establishes “Sick” as a film that doesn’t shy away from intensity. Director John Hyams, with experience in the action genre from directing Universal Soldier franchise installments, brings a well-choreographed and visually striking approach to the thriller.
As the plot unfolds, “Sick” ventures into comedic and absurd territory, especially in its third act, delivering a Covid-centric twist that may leave some viewers uncomfortable. Yet, this audacious move is intentional, harkening back to a time when mainstream horror films were unapologetically tasteless and provocative.
While the film’s pandemic setting may not resonate with everyone, its nail-biting set pieces and well-executed fights stand out as undeniable strengths. “Sick” manages to commit wholeheartedly to its own brand of horror, earning its place as one of the standout wide-release horror titles of 2023. Whether you appreciate its provocations or not, the film’s triumphs overshadow any missteps, securing its status as the sleeper slasher hit you probably missed this year. As we bid farewell to 2023, there’s no better way to celebrate the genre’s enduring appeal than by discovering this hidden gem.