Apr 25, 2013


Slaving over this blog for the past couple years has resulted in one pleasant realization: I really enjoy hearing from burgeoning filmmakers and being given the chance to review their newest independent offering. Films like It's In the Blood, and I Am A Ghost before it, consistently make me hopeful and enthusiastic for the future. That's not to say there aren't filmmakers out there working on their first feature right now who may not honestly be told they never should have picked up a camera. But they have to learn that the hard way: through bitter pricks like me and my fellow horror bloggers.

So...how does Sick Boy fare?

Lucy (Skye McCole Bartusiak) cannot hold a job to save her life, much to the chagrin of her fiance, Chris (Marc Donato). She eventually ends up hating every single one of them, as we all do, but instead of grinning/bearing it, she ups and quits them all. (She also listens to way too much rap.) A pretty bad argument between soon-to-be husband and wife leaves Lucy reeling, desperate to show Chris she's willing to work, and to contribute to their future. This leads to her taking on a babysitting job for a rather well-off family, whose matriarch, Dr. Helen Gordon (the non-stop Debbie Rochon), requests that Lucy watch over her very sick son, Jeremy. The rules are simple: Basically, don't go near him, as she's concerned someone may accidentally pass on additional germs to him. As the money is pretty fantastic, Lucy agrees and takes the job. If you've seen any "evil kid" films of the sub-genre, you know it can only end badly.

Technology has been both a blessing and a curse for the arts. Self-publishing has boomed for writers, and Deviant Art accounts are free for artists desiring to show off their paintings, sketches, etc.; ergo, we have seen explosions in people distributing their own work with the subtle proportions of cannon fire. The same can be said for film. The slow move to digital has allowed anyone to pick up (and afford) a video camera. Computer software, like Final Cut Pro, has enabled nearly anyone to edit video files on their home computer. This is how supply and demand works, folks. Flood the market with product and everything already available cheapens by default. It becomes more difficult to wade through all the garbage for that diamond in the rough.

That's where Sick Boy comes in...because it's quite good.

The story is very simple and contained, similar to another fine offering in the zombie sub-genre Zombie Honeymoon. The script is smart, and rewarding if you pay attention to the smaller details it offers. A radio broadcast early on mentions "strange flu-like symptoms" that seem to originate from South America; later, Lucy looks at photos taken during a family vacation to Venezuela. Additionally, allusions made to Lucy's younger brother, for whom she cared in her youth, insinuates a reason beyond her rather baffling desire to help the infected child well beyond what movie logic should allow. Speaking of, the cute and baby-faced blonde Bartusiak presents a likable heroine, despite our frustration with some of her choices.

Sick Boy has been compared to House of the Devil, in not only similar plots, but also in the slow, unfolding build-up to the inevitable horror for which the '70s were well known. As such, homage is paid to legendary films like Phantasm and Halloween, in the form of a red-on-black opening credits sequence and a very Carpenter-ish synthy score, respectively. (I also liked the random shout out to Throw Momma from the Train, which was completely unexpected.)

Made on a shoestring budget of $50,000, writer/director Tim Cunningham has accomplished a lot. The special effects used aren't going to win any awards, but when compared to complete gluttonous films like the Evil Dead remake, the restraint is refreshing and welcome. The direction is just fine, and the few "gotcha moments" work as well as they were intended to work. But luckily the film doesn't rely on these moments so much as on the impending dread that begins at Night one, seemingly comes to a head with Night two, but throws all the blood at the screen on Lucy's final night as babysitter for the Gordons.

Sick Boy isn't reinventing the wheel, but it doesn't want to. It exists as a zombie film in a sea of other zombie films, but stands head-and-shoulders above many of them. Will it stand a chance against something like World War Z? Probably not. But it could very well be better.

Not bad for a do-it-yourself approach.

You can grab your own DVD of Sick Boy here.

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