Sick Boy starts like many other low-budget horror films… literally. Anyone who has seen their fair share of the genre will feel a strong sense of familiarity while watching the opening act. The young couple with a strained relationship, the naïve woman taking a babysitting job to ease financial anxieties, the one room of the house that she is forbidden from entering; clearly, you can see where this is going. Despite this though, the striking thing about Sick Boy is that you honestly don’t care.
The independent film, helmed by filmmaker Tim T. Cunningham on a shoestring budget, is the clearest example I’ve seen in a long time of a simple notion executed very well. With respect to all those involved, Sick Boy is far from groundbreaking in terms of content and narrative, but that’s certainly not to say it can’t offer substantial entertainment.
The actors are well cast and bring as much as they can to their characters; Skye McCole Bartusiak is particularly convincing as the babysitter in jeopardy, offering a satisfying balance of harmless likability and realistic terror. McCole Bartusiak displays real talent in the lead role, carefully avoiding the trap many ‘scream queens’ fall into of tainting their performance with irritatingly over-the-top theatrics.
Despite the sterling effort put forward by the lead actress though, the real star of Sick Boy is Cunningham. Behind the camera, the director harnesses all the elements he thinks are great about the genre, and he’s pretty spot-on. A primary example of this is the use of tension; if a horror film fails to create tension, it fundamentally fails as a horror film. Fortunately, Cunningham fills Sick Boy to the brim with slow-building tension, and it makes the whole experience a lot more satisfying.
Overall then, Sick Boy is a well-made indie horror. It is clearly a labour of love for the filmmaker, and all those involved offer satisfactory contributions. There a sparks of real quality for horror-enthusiasts to sink their teeth into, but like all low budget films it is, at times, limited but its means. Sick Boy is a breath of fresh air for genre, implementing real technical prowess in its storytelling as opposed to rehashing the same old found-footage drivel. It is rarely brilliant, but rarely poor, and consistently enjoyable.
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