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Masters of Horror Review: Lucky McKee’s ‘Sick Girl’

Can you believe Showtime has already aired episode 10 from the first season of their Masters of Horror (all reviews) anthology? So far I have no been impressed, but at least I got to see the brilliant Cigarette Burns by John Carpenter. Today we’ve posted a review for episode 1.10, Sick Girl, which was directed by Lucky McKee. Angela Bettis and Erin Brown star in this genre blending lesbian love story about two women and the bug that got between them…
Masters of Horror: Episode 1.10
Lucky McKee’s Sick Girl
Reviewed by Tex Massacre
2 Skulls or 4/10

Director Lucky McKee burst on the independent film stage in 2002 with his brilliant Argento-esque horror drama May. At the same time that McKee was making his stellar entrance into the genre he was also introducing the world to a lesser know talent, the incomparable Angela Bettis. Bettis had made her film debut a few years earlier with bit parts in Bless the Child and Girl Interrupted, but nothing could prepare the scene for the waifish tragedy that was her embodiment of May. Soon after its release, Bettis and McKee’s coup d’etat was greeted as a welcome new dish in the banquet of horror cinema. Fast forward 3 years and McKee and Bettis are back with a TKO of new thrillers, collaborating on The Woods and the upcoming film Roman in which Bettis will write and direct and McKee will star as a young man with the same tragic velocity as the troubled May. But before those two films come to fruition later this year, Bettis and McKee are set to take on the small screen with this week’s latest episode of Showtime’s Masters of Horror.

Bettis portrays Dr. Ida Teeter a lesbian entomologist who’s learning some love-life-lessons about how difficult it is to find the right partner when your apartment is crammed to the hilt with creepy crawlies of every persuasion. On the morning our tale opens, Ida discovers a package has arrived at her front door from a mysterious man in Brazil. What the box contains, is a weird and wonderful insect that looks to be part spider, part mantis. This bizarre creature stirs the endless fascination of Ida almost as much as the unusually attractive girl who spends her days sitting cross-legged in the lobby silently sketching portraits of fairies. After a series of wondrously uncomfortable introductions, Ida eventually stirs up the courage to ask the shy young girl, Misty (Erin Brown), out for what must be the most intensely awkward dates ever committed to celluloid. Soon romance blooms between the young lovers as Ida realizes that her eccentric pet collection is of no consequence to her lovely new admirer. It seems that all is moving along perfectly in Ida’s life until the peculiar insect escapes and the bizarre bug unknowingly bites Misty’s ear. As the effects of the bug’s bite begin to make their dangerous presence known, Misty soon starts to behave in a strange and awful manner, forcing Ida to the realization that her exotic new pet may be something more sinister indeed.

Sick Girl marks the film debut of Erin Brown, although you may have seen her before. Erin Brown is the alter ego of B-Movie princess Misty Mundae, who at the ripe old age of 26 had already lent her starpower to over 50 direct to video titles. It appears that Misty has shed her more famous moniker in an effort to establish her self as a serious actress and she performs remarkable well here. As a send off to her past or perhaps, a knowing wink to her post DTV future, McKee has chosen to keep the designation of Misty for Brown’s character. Regardless of the etymology of the name, Brown is fascinatingly innocent and later wickedly vicious as Bettis’ precious paramour, proving that she certainly gives the impression that she holds the acting chops to make a splash in the mainstream movie marketplace.

McKee makes Sick Girl a fairly straightforward love story between two socially self-conscious ladies both of whom have a secret to keep. Where the episode fails, and fails completely is in its concept as a horror movie. Other than one scene of bloodshed and a severely nasty looking ear appliance, this episode plays out more as character study than stereotypical horror.

The postmodern horror film has made strident efforts over the past several years to feature women in power positions, be that as the heroine or as the psychotic, women’s rolls in the horror genre have been rapidly evolving. McKee, who created the indelible image of May, a lost, lonely and haunted figure, yet beholding a dense inner strength that affords her the ability to overcome a tragic existence and find happiness, even her outlet is less that the textbook definition of healthy, makes a major misstep here. In Sick Girl, he presents Misty and Ida, but especially Ida, as mostly ineffectual. Later Misty is given the opportunity to change, even though the catalyst of that change is the result of the toxins introduced by the insect. But, Ida makes no effort to break the mold, and rally against the uncontrollable path her life is taking. In the end, that inability to effect changes will prove to be her undoing. I often found it cumbersome to endure Ida’s natural predisposition to moments of uncontrollable crying and I seriously began to question if the story was ever going to pick up. The cardinal sin of the horror genre is producing a film that bores its audience, and Sick Girl commits that trespass with terrible ease.

As it has been proven over the past ten episodes, the title Master of Horror is one of dubious distinction at best. To name McKee a Master of Horror after directing one feature film and one film festival favorite is a bold and perhaps slightly rash statement. Yet it remains true that many a great filmmaker who have fallen in their follow-up efforts have later redeemed themselves to great avail. So, as it stands, I can only sit and await the promise of future efforts before I endeavor to write the book on the currently uneven career of Lucky McKee. As for Bettis and Brown, they both performed admirably with what they had, so it remains unfortunate that what they had was not a masterful piece of horror.