Every so often a film comes across my desk that has a story behind it. In the world of first-time features and microcinema those stories are generally “labor of love” type chronicles that hinge on a few key repeating elements that usually involve the copious abuse of credit cards, friends and family to propel the filmmaker’s visions forward. HOME SICK is almost one of those type of movies…but with a twist.
Shot in 2003 by recent film school graduates E.L. Katz (Writer/Producer) and Adam Wingard (Director) the film finally makes it’s way to home viewers eyes. Katz and Wingard have moved far beyond this initial feature with Katz Producing Tobe Hooper’s 2005 film MORTUARY and the pair reuniting last year to shoot the new film POP SKULL. So, with that kind of lag time the question becomes ultimately what to make of their long-shelved premiere project?
Surprisingly, despite the delays HOME SICK boasts some serious gore, an overly strange sense of the macabre and a few standout performances from an array of horror veterans. Of course, like all low budget features the film also has a few characterizations that will leave you shaking your head at their ineptitude. Additionally, the title HOME SICK doesn’t provide any huge revelation about what the film has in store for its audience. What the project is really about is a friendly reunion that goes horribly awry.
When Clair comes home, her friend—and Brad Pitt wannabe—Mark takes her over to a pal’s house for a little get together. A mysterious party crasher (Bill Mosley) arrives and forces the kids to watch him slash his forearms with razor blades all while provoking the partygoers to tell him who they hate most in the world. When Mosley departs, the friends soon discover that a Giallo-styled, black-gloved, killer is slashing his way down their self-described hit list…and thanks to one of the idiots stupid little joke, it appears that they’re all next in line!
In addition to Mosley, the film also features Horror Princess Tiffany Shepis whose character of Candice provides a good 30-minutes of bizarre behavior and requisite toplessness before being dispatched of in a decidedly gruesome manner. The other notable star of the film is Tom Towles (later of the Rob Zombie oeuvre, but at the time this film shot, probably best remembered as Otis in HENRY PORTRAIT OF A SERIAL KILLER). Towles’ character of Uncle Johnny is such a crazed backwoods redneck wacko that it’s hard to believe that Katz and Wingard weren’t basing his character on the HOUSE OF 1000 CORPSES legendary Firefly clan. The rest of the cast is serviceable at best but, at worst, they are typified by Matt Lero’s performance as Tim—which consisted of a barrage line deliveries dryer than the Sahara desert. It’s almost as if Lero is purposefully acting as if he is repressing all emotion and enunciating every period in every sentence on the page. If that was the intention—and considering how much better everyone else is in the film—it well could have been. I can only ask why in the world someone would let him do that for the better part of 80-minutes. It was painful…in the bad way.
Painful in the good way would be the best way to describe the effects work by Jonathan Thornton who worked on Herschell Gordon Lewis’ sickie sequel BLOOD FEAST 2: ALL YOU CAN EAT. Thornton makes sawed up feet and severed heads just stream sanguinary rivers of grue. His success is never more evident than in the torture of Shepis character—a scene that literally made me wince.
HOME SICK may have had a long hard road to its DVD release but the journey is absolutely worth the wait. It’s not the best low budget horror film to ever come along but it definitely hits a home run with the special effects work—which in comparison to its budgetary brethren is severed heads above the rest. Fans of the Rob Zombie oveure will enjoy Mosley and Towles’ minor moments in the film. And no one I know would kick Tiffany Shepis outta bed. The plot is homage to the Giallo thrillers of the 70’s but the execution is all new millennium DIY technique (although the film was shot on 16mm as opposed to digital video). We already know that Katz and Wingard have gone on to bigger and better things, so the other interesting point that HOME SICK offers is the opportunity to see what these two were doing when they first got their hands bloody in the world of features. Totally worth it in my book. Check it out for yourself!
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