Monday, March 15, 2010

The Sick House (Great Britain, 2007)

"I see deaf people."

(Nick, in The Sick House)

Yet another haunted house flick that uses the most inane contrivances to gather a group of people together within some cursed structure where they meet their fate one by one. The Sick House is a Boll AG Production, and although the flick does little to add shine to the name Uwe Boll, it does less damage to his reputation than any of the films he has directed himself (with the exception of Postal [2007 / trailer], which is actually a pretty funny film). Some guy named Curtis Radclyffe is the credited director here, but the film looks less as if it was actually directed by a director than tossed together by a cinematographer afraid of colour, a cameraman with the shakes, and a scissor-happy editor. And then there’s that thing that Final Girl aptly calls the "'tardo twist", the out-of-the-blue ending that really causes even the least demanding viewer to spit their beer in laughter. In truth, however, considering the whole set up to get the ghost-fodder into the haunted house—in this case, a hospital built above an orphanage—only a 'tard could possible expect the film might be good, so a "'tardo twist" ending sort of fits to the film.
Gina Philips, a familiar face from films such as Jeepers Creepers (2001 / trailer) and Dead & Breakfast (2004 / trailer) is back again in another questionable film project, this time around playing an American instructor (?) / archaeologist (?) / archaeology student (?) in England named Anna who is doing a dig at a deserted hospital that functioned as a plague house during the Great Plague of London. But her work is interrupted when some of her finds test positive for the plague and the city decides to raze the building. (We won’t talk the science behind this because obviously enough the scriptwriters didn't find it important enough to stay realistic, either.) But Anna is convinced the site holds a hidden secret about a child-killing plague doctor and she wants to find the proof, so like any intelligent person in such a situation she breaks into the building alone at night and continues her digging amongst the "plague spores" all by her lonesome.
In the meantime, four asocial teens—Nick (Alex Hassell), his pregger gal Joolz (Kellie Shirley), Steve (Andrew Knott) and his deaf brother Clive (Jack Bailey)—steal a car for a joyride and then accidentally run over something or someone directly in front of Anna's hospital and promptly hideout in the building. Of course, the shaky cam and quick editing make it clear they ain’t really alone there, but just what is it that slinks through them there corridors? Nothing less than the murderous ghost of the Plague Doctor himself, who Anna has released during her digging down in the basement. The five cross paths and throw a hissy-fit or two and then suddenly Clive has all the symptoms of the plague—but how the hell can they get out with the front door locked?
OK, one of the mainstays of horror is teenagers that wander off alone, but how many films actually have a character say “lets’s split up” two or three times no matter how weird and frightening things seem to get? One by one the bodies fall until only Nick and Anna are left, now finally aware that the events that be are all part of a ceremony to bring the Plague Doctor back to real life—can they stop him and survive? What do you think?

The Sick House is pretty much as bad as almost everyone seems to say it is, but that isn't to say it doesn't have a few gleams of decency within it. With the exception of the hot-headed Nick (Alex Hassell), the acting is surprisingly good for a group (excluding Gina Philips) of no names. Likewise, despite the absolutely crappy camerawork and editing, midway through the film actually achieves a certain level of tension and unease, a level that is regrettably not effectively maintained to the film's end—again due mostly to the crappy camerawork and editing. As raspberry-inducing as the "'tardo twist" is, it sort of makes a limited amount of sense if you actually notice the fat, frozen fox and clock outside the hospital, but the crappy camerawork and editing makes it a bit hard to catch this slight clue. The low-key, grey-blue colour scheme is actually rather fitting to the film, but it is hardly saves the film from being ruined by the underdeveloped script and crappy camerawork and editing. But despite the crappy camerawork and editing, The Sick House does include a particularly long and unsettling—almost nauseating—segment involving Joolz that is truly horrifying. But as effective as leeches and blood and nude, defenceless mothers-to-be and slit tummies and missing babies might be, the single segment is not enough to save the film.
And did I mention the crappy camerawork and editing?

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