Monday, 12 January 2015


So, Zombies are still 'in' then.
With The Walking Dead continuing to draw a massive audience, I'm not expecting the zombie craze to go anywhere soon.
This isn't necessarily a bad thing — anything that brings our genre to a wider audience is to be applauded. The fact is zombies are so popular because they are a bloody good horror device. The storytelling potential with zombies is great, the problem is too many people cashing in on the trend are happy to rehash what we've seen before (namely Romero's first three seminal Dead flicks) rather than tell a new and original tale.
Last week saw the release of Ryan Andrews' SICK.
Is this a film that breathes fresh life into the undead? Or just another resurrection of a mouldy old corpse? Read on...


Dir: Ryan M. Andrews 
Starring: Christina Aceto, Richard Roy Sutton, Robert Nolan, Jennifer Polansky, Debbie Rochon, Sandra DaCosta, Ryan Barrett, Devin Upham, Breanne TeBoekhorst, Cengis H Fehmi

SPEEDY SYNOPSIS: I'll try not to spoil too much here but continue at your own risk.

A deadly virus has ravaged the earth. The infected have become ravenous predators, shuffling and mindless until they catch a scent of prey, than swiftly becoming brain-eating killing machines. Society has collapsed — aside from a few government bases that act as safe zones, the world is overcome. 
A few scavengers, known as Vultures, survive in this mess, sweeping for food, clothes, medicines, weapons — anything that can help in the day to day battle for survival.
In one government base, Dr Leigh Rozetta (Aceto) is working towards finding a cure. Aided by her tough assistant (and former vulture) Claudia (Polansky) the task seems fruitless, even if video contact with her colleague Dr Fehmi (the great Rochon) suggests headway is being made. Under increasing pressure from the overbearing armed forces troops in the base, Rozetta decides to head out into the world beyond her base and return to her parents' home.
Meanwhile a group of vultures led by the shrewd McKay (Hickey's House of Horrors fave Nolan) and including tough and jaded Seph (Sutton) are heading out on a routine sweep. These characters are due to collide under terrifying circumstances. The only question is: who will survive the night?

THE BEST BITS (minor spoiling warning): One of SICK's strongest points is how unpredictable it is. Taking a pretty cliched set-up (small group of survivors holed up in an isolated home surrounded by the undead while tensions summer within) it twists and turns along some routes that I really never saw coming. Whatever events you feel sure will occur later in the story are swiftly tugged out from under your feet.
Characters have arcs you can't possibly predict and deaths occur in an order you'd never guess. This is refreshing to see, I can guarantee that a major studio would have never shown the guts to make some of the decisions that Andrews et al have in this film.
This is a grim, dark story. It is almost unrelentingly horrifying and rarely shows a light at the end of the tunnel. It carries some serious gut-punches that will definitely hit you hard. This is not a feel-good film, but this is rarely a feel-good genre. I mean this in the very best way, SICK: Survive the Night is a HORROR film.
The dense plot is also used to explain the nature of the infected more — there is very much a scientific explanation for a lot of the zombies' behaviour. Andrews and his writing partner Chris Cull have clearly put a lot of thought into fully realising this grin world they have created. Andrews has said that he and Cull envision SICK as part of a trilogy and there is definitely scope to continue and expand upon this story.
The film is comparatively low-budget (as so many indies in the genre are), but Abdrews and his cinematographer Michael Jari Davidson do a pretty good job with what they have at their disposal to keep the film looking polished with some great shots that clearly show some love towards the films of Romero.
The Sick are a little different too, combining the classic shuffling zombie with today's 28 Days Later-inspired fast-moving and ferocious infected. The make-up effects are simple but nicely done, eerie black veins and lots of dripping brownish blood. It's a shame the now ubiquitous pale-blue/white contacts make another appearance, but I'm prepared to let that slide.
Of course it's no good having a great and well-realised world and a quirky story if the actors aren't up to the task of bringing it to life. One of SICK’s big strengths is that the infected themselves are almost a backdrop to the far more human story taking place about trust, survival and the relationships of our ragtag band of leads. This requires that they all hit their mark. Thankfully there are some very strong performances to be had here. Those who've read my reviews of both Worm and Familiar will know how impressed I've been by Robert Nolan and once again, he rocks. He's one hell of an actor and he's fast making a big fan here. Once again, well done, sir!
Of course he's joined by another of my genre favourites, scream queen legend Debbie Rochon and she is marvellous as always. Much like her turn in Phobia, she’s clearly having a blast but this time she’s afforded a fair bit more screen time.
It’s not just the big-names that account themselves well — I was impressed by Sutton who showed a great range in his role of Seph and Aceto had some fantastic moments. I’ll be looking out for both of them in the future.

THE WORST BITS (mild spoiler warning): Basically, SICK: Survive the Night is a zombie movie. For a lot of you hardcore fans, that will be an instant no-no. The over-exposed nature of the undead epidemic film will mean that a lot of you won’t be prepared to sit through another hour and a half of bickering survivors, waves of brain-eaters and the crumbling of civilisation. SICK takes some risks and adds some nice twists to the story, but the basic premise is one we’ve seen a lot. If you’ve had enough of carnivorous corpses, this one could leave you cold.
It is to be applauded by trying something different by focusing on the characters rather than the zombies, but that isn’t actually that different nowadays. In fact, most recent low-budget zombie movies tend to do this, probably because it saves on a crippling effects budget.
Speaking of effects, those of you looking for plentiful gore will be disappointed here. This isn’t a film about spilled guts, gallons of blood and grisly wounds. I’d argue that is most certainly not the point of SICK, but there is VERY little of the mucky stuff on display, so if that is what gets you going with an undead caper, you’re out of luck.
Also, while earlier on I praised the unpredictable writing, one of the side effects of this is that some very interesting characters who you expect a lot more from get less screentime than perhaps they should. This was especially true of Polansky’s Claudia, who felt a little wasted. She was given a clear arc, a glimpse of gratuitous nudity and an under-developed lesbian sub-plot, but hardly any time to do much with it. I also would have LOVED to see more of the vulture group’s knife-throwing bad ass (Fehmi). Perhaps one of the other SICK trilogy of films will give us some more of them? Fingers crossed.
Also, while I praised the leads, alas not every member of the cast was quite up to the lofty standards of the likes of Rochon and Nolan. This is often the case with low-budget horror — an expensive star often appears alongside some decidedly lower-rent actors and proceed to show them up along the way. Luckily the main culprits of this were limited to very little screen time and it isn’t an issue in too many scenes.
Finally, speaking of Rochon and Nolan, I was gutted to see that though don’t get to share any scenes. Oh man! Looks like I’ll have to wait to see two of my favourites rocking it onscreen together. Are you listening out there horror filmmakers? Somebody make it so!

VERDICT: I enjoyed SICK: Survive the Night a lot, but it won’t be for everyone. It is an unashamed zombie flick. It doesn’t reinvent the wheel by any stretch, but it takes a tried and tested formula and gives it some nice tweaks here and there to keep it interesting. I’m going to recommend the flick, and not just to completist fans who’ll snap up anything with Ms Rochon in.
It looks good, it sounds good, there’s a top-drawer cast and an interesting and unpredictable story in a well-realised world. What more are you after? Count me in for any sequels too, I’d love to see what else Andrews and his crew have waiting for us.
The film is available now through most major stockists, so be sure to check it out. Also, why not check out the movie’s Facebook page? Give it a Like too, especially if you want to Ryan’s trilogy vision come to fruition!

If you haven’t already, do please check out and like the Hickey’s House of Horrors Facebook page, which you can find here. It gives you a nice quick link to any new posts on this blog, plus regular news updates from around the web. I check the Internet so you don’t have to!
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Until next time, I hope you enjoyed your stay.

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