MARCH 1, 2008
I am pleased to report that The Sickhouse is the first screener sent to Horror Movie A Day from a major studio! The irony, of course, is that that studio is in fact New Line, who more or less folded the day before I watched the film. Oh well, close enough.
Given the fact that it was direct to DVD and starring Gina Phillips, who is 0-2 in the non-existent HMAD sweepstakes (thanks to Dead & Breakfast and the truly awful Ring Around The Rosie), I wasn’t expecting much from the film. But I was pleased to find that it wasn’t all that bad – a fast paced ghost movie that resembles House On Haunted Hill in a number of ways but at the same time feels a bit original.
The HoHH comparisons stem from a few sources. One, this is the bluest fucking movie I have seen since, well, HoHH. In the rare moments that you see red (the blood looks more like black) it’s almost an eyesore. Lay off the filters, (director Curtis) Radclyffe! Strangely, the pics on the back of the DVD are shown in a brownish/yellow tint that resembles the Chain Saw remake. Well, whatever. Blue, orange, it’s all OK in Michael Bay’s world, and thus perfectly OK in mine.
Another similarity is that the backstory involves a rather confusing account of a doctor doing experiments, and now the ghosts of his victims are killing people. Or something. It’s all a bit baffling (and the ending suggests that the characters are stuck in a time loop?), but it’s still entertaining, which is really all I ask for anymore. Plus, the backstory is actually about the plague (“As in THE Plague?” a character asks), which is a topic I am quite interested in, and is also rather rarely used in horror films. Which is why the film feels more original than it probably actually is – there are bits and pieces taken from a variety of horror movies, but overall the concept is kind of unique.
Kudos to writer Romla Walker for doing something truly rare – making me care a bit about a criminal in a horror movie. For whatever reason, many horror movies have criminals (usually robbers) as our “heroes”, and I’m always cold to the concept. Fuck them, they are thieves! Kill em all! But in this I actually kind of liked the main guy, Nick (Alex Hassell), who is introduced by stealing a car and going joyriding with his friends. Of course, when someone in the car finds a video camera he almost immediately does a Blair Witch parody, so that helped immensely.
However, one thing about her script (I assume) that wasn’t so great was the rampant profanity. Now, obviously I have ZERO problem with the F-word and all its variations (I’ve even been known to make a few up), but sometimes a movie just has so many that it just sounds forced, and even worse, tiresome. Take for example, this exchange:
Nick: “Shut the fuck up you crazy fucking fuck!”
Gina: “Fuck you!”
Come on now. We can all do a lot fucking better. Had the film been a bit lighter, this could be construed as a joke, but the film is entirely dark and humorless other than the Blair Witch joke.
Another thing I was reminded of was the underrated Xbox game Condemned: Criminal Origins. In that game, there’s a sort of nonsensical sidequest that involves you finding the remains of dead birds around the city. This film also has dead birds, though it makes a bit more sense here, since... actually I have no idea what sense it makes. The ghost killer dresses like a bird. That’s about it. Hey, it works. That game also had an abandoned hospital as a level, if memory serves.
Like yesterday’s movie, this one has a rather disgusting birth scene, and damned if I didn’t applaud it. A girl suddenly squirts out not a child, but thousands of leeches. She then begins walking around, as more leeches and black fluid (which could be blood, though it seems thicker) pours out down her leg and all over the floor. Fuck yeah! Nasty bits like that are increasingly uncommon, so when you get a bit of it in a new movie, it’s a good sign that all hope is not lost for modern horror.
The surround mix is also quite good. Creepy kids' laughter and things of that nature will occasionally pop out of the rear speakers, and one time it even freaked me out a bit. I hope a lot of you have decent home theaters for these movies, I can’t imagine how different my opinion for some of these movies would be if I wasn’t being engulfed by the damn thing while I watched it (this may be why I tend to like stuff no one else does – maybe they’re just watching it on a stereo TV?).
You may wonder why I am a bit vague on story specifics. Well, that’s because I honestly can’t make heads or tails of the final 20 minutes of the movie, and need to watch it again (or have it explained to me via wiki entry). But I haven’t had time to do that yet, and no one else has seen it, best I can tell, so I guess I’ll have to wait. If this review is not updated by the time the DVD hits stores (March 18th I think?), feel free to explain the ending to me. Please include an explanation for the fox under the clock, why a guy who is flat out told he is going to die via hanging decides to wear a scarf anyway, and what the hell is going on with the cop at the end. Thanks!
What say you?