The horror genre has long been torn into at least two camps when asked to consider the most effective manner in which to inspire fear. One faction champions the use of suggestion and atmosphere to inspire terror, the other, more devoted to graphic excess, sees the aesthetic and psychological value in shock tactics. More liberal minds understand the importance of both approaches, appreciating the emotional effectiveness of the whisper as well as the occasional need for the visceral scream. Sick Girl, perhaps the most experimental volume in the Masters of Horror series, utilizes both approaches, and shows how successful a marriage between solid storytelling and sensationalistic imagery can be when the themes of a plot are intelligent and emotionally challenging.
The challenges of balancing work and romance, sex and emotional security are combined with mad science and mutative illness in this imaginative firestorm. Ida Teeter, a scientist specializing in insects, finds herself dumped -- again!-- by a female lover who cannot condone or understand her love of insects. Soon after she discovers a young woman setting in her office building -- a fairy-like nymphet. The two quickly stumble into a live-in sexual affair. Amidst this blossoming romance (and the new demands it puts on her life), Ida receives in the mail a new insect, sent anonymously. She misplaces the vicious critter, distracted by the steamy allure of sexual intimacy, and it becomes apparent that Misty is ill. The monstrous insect transmits a deadly new type of disease that transforms human cells . . . and Misty is caught in its web. How long until Ida is?
The tenth episode in Showtime's surprisingly graphic, intellectually adventurous series, Sick Girl is at once both a fable -- a moralistic warning -- and a celebration of sexual/horrific excesses. It exchanges the diluted ridiculousness of PG rated, overly simplistic moral fables for a timely examination of alienation, romance, sexual need, and infectious illness. Successful as both metaphor and literal story, the plot invites various social and political interpretations while remaining relevant on a personal level. On one hand this tale of star-crossed (and slime-ridden) lovers and revenge is a poem to splatter, using its sexually explicit imagery and sense of taboo to both arouse and horrify. On a more personal, more admirable level, the themes mirrored by the violence and mutative science pushes into psychologically adventurous cultural territories. Angela Bettis is a highlight here, as is the fan-fave Misty, every fan boy's wet dream.
A science amuck/mutation film on the surface, and perfectly enjoyable as such, the film is also about the dangers of romantic relationships, and the needs of the body and soul to both understand and be understood. To make it more commercially interesting, a gallon of slime is spilled and cheerfully exploitative scenes of lesbian lovemaking are included. Either way, the story captivates and challenges, and is worthy as both an ode to the mad science festivities of the fifties and as an original cross between uneasy humor, shock, and surprisingly tender emotion -- an examination of people who love, and those who would love to be loved . . . with folks that turn into bugs!
Sick Girl is presented in 1.77:1 anamorphic widescreen in a transfer that looks superb, suffering from scant pixel breakup. No grain is present, and colors are bright and vibrant. Flesh tones are rich and accurate. Audio in 2.0 surround sound is full and rich, lending tension and eroticism to the visual excess. A riot of sounds, evenly distributed, the music is effectively used to enhance action throughout.
Extras are significant here, including an audio Commentary with director McKee, who comes across as affable and insightful as he shares his insights on film as both finished art and creative process; he and various cast members also discuss this particular story's genesis and challenges. Going behind the scenes of production, he McKee is also featured in an interview, tackling other elements of the film with little if any overlap from the commentary. Behind-the-scenes features, and a generous selection of stills, DVD ROM features, and photo galleries round out this stand-out short film.
Review by William P. Simmons
|Released by Anchor Bay|
|Region 1 - NTSC|
|Extras : see main review|