Home Sick (US - DVD)
Gabe has a list of people he hates all ready for Mr. Suitcase and his friend...
A group of high school friends hold a homecoming party for Claire (Lindley Evans), who’s gone away to Art School. The party is crashed by a smiling maniac named Mr. Suitcase (Bill Mosely), who brandishes a briefcase full of razorblades. Mr. Suitcase forces the partygoers to identify the people in their lives they hate, and he slashes his arm with every name. Soon after, a black-hooded, seemingly supernatural killer starts murdering all the names on Mr. Suitcase’s list. Unfortunately for our heroes, one of them named everyone in the room.
In my review of Synapse Films release of Lucker: The Necrophagous I talked a bit about the low standards of horror addicts like myself. I said that most of us are satiated by two or three well executed gore shots, enough to end up recommending it to some other horror addicted sap. The only thing we like more than an even remotely memorable gore scene is a B-list celebrity cameo, or God help us, a starring role for some actor who had a scene in some cult flick from the ‘70s or ‘80s. This is how Gunner Hanson still has a ‘career’. Home Sick director Adam Wingard scored himself a nice little handful of cult players, including Troma favourite Tiffany Shepis (who has sixteen projects in development according to imdb.com), Tom Towels of Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer and House of 1000 Corpses fame, and Bill Mosely, everyone’s favourite Chop-Top and Rob Zombie’s secondary muse (after his wife, of course).
Home Sick looks pretty decent for an independent production, and credit Wingard gets better performances out of his cult heroes than expected. Even the unknown cast is more effective than any in my recent memory. The story itself is kind of a mess (like too many super-low-budget horror flicks it comes down to a series of gory set pieces), and there’s too much emphasis placed on flashy editing effects (a problem Rob Zombie suffered hard core when he made his first film), but the dialogue is mostly natural and served very well by the actors, even the ones that ham it up. I suppose my biggest problem with the whole thing is writer E.L. Katz’s brand of almost Lynchian storytelling, which is needlessly confusing, but I give him credit for coming up with an interesting and somewhat original way of telling the oft-told teen slasher story. This could’ve been an evenly and orderly told little concept, but these filmmakers aimed to film a nightmare. In some ways I suppose they succeeded.
The gore is pretty extreme, and somewhat convincing (though never fully). Horror addicts will find enough nastiness here to hold them over until the next low budget STV production finds its way into the local video store. Wingard’s tonal shifts are a bit iffy, though. Most of the really gory violence is funnier then I’m assuming it was intended to be. Still, some of the more emotionally upsetting scenes hold some frightful sway. I wouldn’t call it an all around success, but Home Sick seems to have fulfilled most of its small time goals, and it’s pretty entertaining as well, even if it doesn’t make any sense.
This is the part where I admit that I don’t know enough about film production to make a definitive statement on this disc’s lack of anamorphic enhancement. Imdb.com tells me that Home Sick was shot on 16mm (why not shoot digital in this day and age?), which doesn’t look super grand when blown-up, but the film is less than a year old, so I assume anamorphic enhancement isn’t out of the question. The image is very grainy, and generally not too sharp on detail, but it has a fair share of decent bits as well. The saturated colours are bright and pretty well represented, though they’re all full of all kinds of low-level noise. The black levels are deep, and their lines hard, but they’re never quite ‘black’.
Home Sick suffers the usual tribulations of a low budget production. The on-set sound recording is flat and flooded with background buzz, and the post-production Foley and canned effects are too loud on the track, and tend to bleed into the stereo and surround channel when likely not intended. I think that Dolby Surround may’ve been a bad idea for these filmmakers, because the difference between the on-set and post-production sound is especially large. There is a lot of hiss and distortion on the dialogue track, and inconsistent noise levels throughout. The score and additional music sounds pretty good, and I actually liked the use of music in the film very much. The score, by a gentleman named Zombi, is keyboard heavy, and reminiscent of early John Carpenter music, without devolving into a straight rip off.
The extras, which are pretty sizable by Synapse standards, begin with a commentary track featuring director Wingard and writer/producer Katz. It’s not the liveliest commentary ever, but the space is pretty evenly filled, and the factoids are quite amusing. The commentators are very honest about the quality of their work, which leads to a couple giggle fits, which frankly make things more fun. Listening to the track the movie makes a little sense, but it’s still pretty messy.
Next up is a deleted scene (or scenes I guess) that would’ve been placed at the beginning of the film. The final cut pacing is just fine, so the deletion of the scene was a pretty good choice. The almost eight minute scene offers up some additional character development, but doesn’t really help in explaining the sort of non sequential plot. This is followed by a five minute interview featurette with Bill Mosley. Mosley does his best to describe his character’s intensions, talks a little about his process, praises his fellow actors, etc. Mosley really strikes as a nice guy in every DVD interview I’ve ever seen, and this one is no exception.
‘In a Room Where Darkness Counts’ is a sort of beatnik inspired, artsy making of featurette. Instead of actual behind the scenes footage, we’re treated to a hyperventilating Adam Wingard re-enacting some of the more interesting behind the scenes moments. I get what Wingard was trying to do here, but I didn’t enjoy watching it, especially not for twelve and a half minutes.
The final extras are three of Adam Wingard and E.L. Katz’ short films. The first one is The Girlfriend, a very smartly crafted little story about a boy bringing his girlfriend home to meet his family, when she’s inexplicably replaced by some kind of malevolent spirit. The thirty-two minute short is brimming with dreamy music and visuals, and is quite competently shot and acted. The writing isn’t as interesting as that of Home Sick, but Wingard’s use of camera is sophisticated pretty far beyond that of his feature film début. 1000 Year Sleep is a six minute art piece without any real plot. The idea concerns four beautiful young girls who are all killed by the same serial killer, told almost like an anti-smoking ad. It’s a little pretentious, but it’s gorgeously shot, and has a pretty great punch line. Laura Panic is a three minute companion piece to 1000 Year Sleep, also gorgeously shot and told via a narration.
Home Sick is pretty good for a first time feature on a nothing budget, but in the greater pantheon of horror cinema it merely earns the status of average in this addict’s eyes. However, looking at director Adam Wingard and writer E.L. Katz’s short films I’m definitely looking forward to more feature length releases. The three shorts on this disc are worthy of at least a rent. I assume that the more money this disc pulls in the better the possibility of other Wingard and Katz flicks hitting DVD.
Review by Gabriel Powers
This product has not been rated
Release Date: 26th August 2008
Disc Type: Single side, dual layer
Audio: Dolby Digital 2.0 English
Extras: Director/Writer Commentary, Deleted Scene, 'A Room Where Darkness Counts', Bill Mosley Interview, Three Short Films
Easter Egg: No
Director: Adam Wingard
Cast: Lindley Evans, Bill Mosley, Tom Towels, Tiffany Shepis, Forrest Pitts
Length: 89 minutes
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