Anytime Kevin Williamson takes on writing duties for a horror film, there is cause for celebration. Responsible for some of my favorites in the history of the genre—including the Scream franchise, I Know What You Did Last Summer, The Faculty, and Cursed—Williamson’s name amongst the credits for any project warrants attention. His latest script, co-written by Katelyn Crabb, delivers big on one major feature prevalent in many 90s greats: chase scenes. In fact, Sick takes it one step further by essentially evolving into one massive chase, courtesy of a foreboding stalk-and-slash murderer. Directed by John Hyams (2020’s Alone), Sick wrings every ounce of tension from a visceral, effective script. Essentially a thriller fan’s wet dream, the sheer intensity and nail-biting madness of its finest moments will shake any casual viewer to their core.
Remember back in April of 2020, when COVID-19 forced the entire U.S. population to effectively quarantine in their homes? How about the constant need to wear masks, sanitize not only hands but also items fetched from the supermarket, or the obsessive paranoia that literally anyone around could spread the virus? Just in case this period has been swept under the rug of one’s mind, Sick arrives to reopen the wounds of trauma. The film begins innocently enough, as Tyler (Joel Courtney, The Empty Man, The Kissing Booth) is out doing some grocery shopping. Creepy incoming texts from an unknown number definitely evoke the Scream series. Someone inquires if Tyler wants to party, with one major caveat—“will only play if you’re Covid safe.” Before he heads home, Tyler then gets sent a photo proclaiming he has a “nice ass”—this mysterious person has literally snapped a pic from the checkout line!
An opening kill then plays out in a rather surprising, intense fashion as an assailant dressed in all black with their face covered emerges from Tyler’s closet. The brutality of the close-quarters encounter acts as an exciting taste of what Sick has on offer. The killer here appears to toy with their victim through technology before honing in a savage, brutal murder. By setting the stage in this way, Williamson and Crabb already have us nervous for our core characters. There are truly only three main players—establishing such a tight-knit group serves to make any potentially dangerous situation into a cutthroat, nightmarish scenario.
Parker (Gideon Adlon, The Craft, Witch Hunt) and her best friend, Miri (Bethlehem Million, And Just Like That…), are heading off to Parker’s family lake house to “quarantine in style.” Miri seems very intense about Covid-19, insisting they wear a mask even outside or in the car, and constantly wanting to reinforce the six-foot rules. On the other hand, Parker seems more fast and loose with them. The closest neighbor is almost two miles away, leaving Parker and Miri to a presumably nice, quiet getaway. When Parker’s sort-of boyfriend DJ (Dylan Sprayberry, Teen Wolf, Malibu Horror Story) shows up to their girls’ retreat unannounced, the vibe instantly changes. Parker, who had recently gone to a party and made out with a stranger, seems to be in hot water, but the couple never vowed to be mutually exclusive. In spite of tension, Parker, Miri, and now DJ try to have a good time together, far from the scary realities of the outside world.
While this may sound like the perfect setup for an intimate quarantine, eerie texts and the constant, lurking sinister presence promises it will not stay calm for too long. Atmospheric voyeurism can be felt in each camera shot and lurking shadow. As the killer sneaks his way into the house and up into the bedrooms, creeping by just out of view from our characters, Hyams recalls The Fisherman prowling around Helen’s home in I Know What You Did Last Summer. Their costuming is kept simplistic yet eye-catching, calling into question more than once who may truly be underneath the garb. Before long, Sick escalates into a relentless cat-and-mouse chase where every second is a constant fight for survival.
What really drove Sick home for me in addition to the tangible atmosphere, excellent direction, and edge-of-your-seat tension was the ultimate motive of the killer. Not only does the reveal feel incredibly relevant, but it adds an entire new layer of complicated morals. Obviously part of it will feel justified, and depending on one’s personal views, this aspect of Sick may make or break the movie. I personally feel that yet again Kevin Williamson has crafted a believable, timely reveal that will prove only to be more relevant and relatable in the near future. The Scream series is king in this regard, proving Williamson was no stranger to the sharp writing and impressive juggling act it takes to properly pull off a finale such as this one.
Pandemic horror is a relatively new concept, but as far as the extremely limited pool to choose from, Sick is definitely my favorite since last year’s The Harbinger. Certainly, both movies prey on Covid fears while mocking them at the same time, using the topicality as fodder for social commentary and hyper-intelligent snipes. Sick is also meta, but just enough—Parker remarks early on that the killer cannot possibly be Jason Voorhees, because “it’s Saturday the 14th.” At a late, vital moment, one person is refused a ride from a stranger while being pursued by the killer, as she is not wearing a mask. Blazing onto the screen with terrifying imagery and a breakneck pace, Sick isolates potent pandemic horror with ease.
Try not to get Sick when the new slasher gem self-isolates for Peacock subscribers on Friday, January 13th.