TIFF 2022 | Sick (John Hyams, US) — Midnight Madness

By Josh Lewis

A COVID lockdown protocol slasher might sound like a tough sell to a moviegoing public not particularly enthusiastic about going back to the days of toilet paper shortages even in our entertainment. Still, in the hands of legendary teen meta-horror scribe Kevin Williamson and underrated direct-to-video action director John Hyams, Sick is one of the more plainly satisfying genre exercises of its kind. Clearly written during the confusing, hysterical midst of April 2020, Williamson has taken the broadly palpable fear and rage that everyone was feeling then and—rather than try to make any specific, compelling commentary on the events— has cleverly structured it around the friendship of two final girls Parker (Gideon Adlon) and Miri (Beth Million) who find themselves in a series of kinetic survival chase setpieces with a masked killer or two while quarantining together at their cottage. 

Taking a confidently bad taste approach to its subject that some could find either alienating or cathartic, and essentially stripping Scream (1996) down to its most gruesome nuts-and-bolts, once Sick gets moving it’s almost a non-stop 80-minute suspense machine of ringing cellphones, shadowy stalkers, quick-witted geographical decision-making, and clumsy killers with playfully mysterious motivations constantly falling down staircases. And while maybe not having the metatextual density that came with Craven’s decades of history in the genre Hyams’ background in lean martial arts brutality and cat-and-mouse thriller logistics nonetheless made him a perfect match for the material, and (more so than even the 2021 reboot/sequel to Scream) he and Sick display a skillful command of Craven-esque scope screen space, elegant Steadicam long takes, and messily choreographed violence with real, painful stuntwork that is sorely missing nowadays even from studio horror.