For any horror fan living outside of the United States and without access to the Peacock streaming service, you’ve been likely wait for this news. Several months after debuting on the limited platform, John Hyams and Kevin Williamson’s critically-acclaimed slasher Sick has finally made its way to other VOD sites. Described as a mix of post-modern slasher with COVID-19 themes, critics and horror fans have given Williamson’s latest offering a big thumbs up. Now horror fans outside of America can see if it’s worth all the hype.
It’s April 2020 and the COVID-19 pandemic has spread across the globe. As lockdown and quarantine protocols take hold, best friends Parker and Miri decide to quarantine together at Parker’s family lake house. However, the quiet and solitude doesn’t last long. First, an anonymous callers starts leaving Parker strange text messages. And then DJ, Parker’s ex-fling, shows up unexpectedly. But DJ isn’t the only unexpected guest. When a masked intruder breaks into the house, the quarantine descends into a fight for survival.
Sick a Lean, Tense Addition to the Slasher Subgenre
After the opening scene, Sick feels both immediately like a Kevin Williamson-penned (I Know What You Did Last Summer, The Faculty) slasher and yet not like one. Anonymous text messages popping on screen, stalking a college student in plain sight, a masked killer waiting in a dorm room – it all bares the hip trademarks of Scream. However, aside from sharing a subgenre, this slasher quickly diverges from the meta-formula recycled by many Scream pretenders. Following a first act that introduces us to best friends Parker and Miri, Sick discards any sort of middle act. Instead, director John Hyams (Alone, Black Summer) and Williamson skip to a relentless cat-and-mouse third act.
…there’s a consistent sense of urgency to everything happening.
Once our masked intruder shows up and gets inside the house, Sick becomes a nonstop series of chases and nail-biting moments. With his film and television background, Hyams excels at staging attacks, fights, and chases in a way where the action is clear and fluid. As a result, there’s a consistent sense of urgency to everything happening. Nimi Fakhrara’s score deserves plenty of credit for the thriller’s suspense. While it’s not a ‘body count’ slasher per se, Sick still boasts a genuinely shocking death scene.
Sick Re-Imagines the Slasher for a Post-COVID World
Where Sick further diverges from other slashers is its re-imagining of the moral aspects of the subgenre. Classic slashers have always been gory morality tales. Specifically, a tragic past event resulting from some moral shortcoming begets vengeance in the present. Though Williamson still pens a morality tale, his setting of the story in and around the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic blurs the lines more than we’re used to seeing in slashers. Much more is left to the audience’s interpretation. Our masked intruders aren’t without a justifiable cause and the ‘Final Girls’ aren’t that virtuous. And scenes of empty grocery shelves and other visual pandemic markers may be as upsetting as more traditional horror tropes.
Classic slashers have always been gory morality tales.
As for the thriller’s Final Girls, Gideon Adlon (Parker) and Beth Million (Miri), both actresses acquit themselves quite well. Gideon’s (The Craft: Legacy) Final Girl may be more morally ambiguous but she’s still compelling in the thriller’s third act. On the other hand, Million gets a little less to do in Sick as she’s playing the more anxious best friend. Still she’s convincing with the material – there’s never any doubt she do more with a bigger role. The supporting cast is small – Dylan Sprayberry, Marc Menchaca (Ozark, The Retaliators), and Jane Adams – but uniformly strong.
Sick More Than Earns the Hype as One of the Best Slashers in Recent Memory
Here’s a rare case where the hype feels completely warranted. Simply put, Sick stands out as one of the best slashers released in years. While Scream was a hip, meta-analysis of the subgenre itself, Hyams and Williamson deliver a raw, relentless, and morally ambiguous slasher in Sick. Rather than preach at audiences, this thriller centers its horror around the uncomfortable realities that emerged in the early days of COVID-19 and leaves the meaning open to interpretation. And the kills and thrills are intense and well executed. Like another 2023 slasher re-imagining, The Blackening, Sick proves there’s still plenty of life left in the subgenre in the right creative hands.