College students on a quarantine getaway at an isolated lake house are stalked by a masked killer in Sick, an inventive new thriller from the writer of Scream now streaming on Peacock. Mixing slasher movie tropes with some surprisingly observant social commentary, this one is a lot of fun, and deserves to find an audience.
Set during the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic, Sick plays up the premise to the hilt: there’s Covid testing, quarantining, hand washing, grocery sanitizing, and plenty of mask wearing. In one of the film’s most amusing scenes, a girl on the run from a killer flags down a car for help — only to be told by the driver to put on a face mask before she can get inside.
That girl is Parker (Gideon Adlon), who has had a risky contact and needs to self-isolate. But quarantine doesn’t have to mean the end of the party, so Parker invites friend Miri (Bethlehem Million) to her father’s lake house for a week of drinking and drugs. Only problem: sometimes-boyfriend DJ (Dylan Sprayberry) crashes in on the fun.
But the party is interrupted by another uninvited guest: a man dressed in all-black, and mask compliant, who we know is bad news because we saw him slit the throat of an unsuspecting victim in Sick’s horror-standard opening sequence.
And that’s essentially it: Sick’s protagonists fend off a masked killer at an isolated location for most of the running time. Standard slasher movie material, but here’s the thing: the pandemic commentary doesn’t end with a few nods to the obvious, and Sick ingeniously weaves Covid-19 fears into its narrative.
The result is a movie that works on multiple levels: both a tense and exciting home invasion thriller in the vein of classic slasher movies, and a canny and incisive exploration of the real-world fears that have haunted us over the past three years.
Sick was written by Kevin Williamson, the scribe behind Scream and creator of Dawson’s Creek, and directed by John Hyams, who previously made the B-movie action masterpiece Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning.
Despite the young cast and trendy premise, which has some surface similarities to last year’s Bodies Bodies Bodies, there is an unexpectedly slick and professional quality to both the writing and direction in Sick: no Chekhov’s gun is left unfired, and what we might think are inconspicuous jabs at real-life events are actually integral parts of the story.
Sick is a real winner, and despite dropping on Peacock with little fanfare after debuting at last year’s Toronto International Film Festival, it has timely appeal for a wide audience. Following on the heels of M3GAN, horror movies are off to a great start in 2023.
While sequels to Williamson’s Scream movies are still trotting out the same-old, same-old, Sick genuinely has something new and interesting to say.