'SICK : Survive the Night' (2012/15)

The worst kept secret amongst genre fans over the last half a decade or so is that zombies are the dominant force in horror. Ever since Zack Snyders Dawn of the Dead remake and the premiere of 'The Walking Dead', horror has been devoured by all sorts of stories involving the undead. Whether they are actual dead rising from the grave a la George Romero or "infected" in the vein of Danny Boyle and 28 Days Later, you can't swing a dead cat (or a reanimated one for that matter) without hitting a zombie film. Within the sub-genre many disparate visions of a post zombie apocalypse have arisen. While some present an uber-goretastic, bat shit crazy, look at the zombie-fied word, others like 'The Walking Dead' or Ryan M. Andrews take a more subtle, humanized approach. They tell the story of the actual humans involved and their evolution against the back drop of the apocalypse.

SICK : Survive the Night, which I'm just going to call SICK from this point on because frankly I'mSICK or Survive the Night, would suffice for the film, picks up in earnest two years after the zombie apocalypse. Scientists are sequestered in military run underground bunkers working on a cure. The surface of the planet is populated by various groups of rovers fighting for survival, some with more specious motives than others. When Dr. Leigh Rozetta leaves the military compound to visit her parents house, she runs across Seph Copeland and Robert Nolan, two survivors of a clash between roving clans. They hole up for the night in Rozettas parents house in hopes of surviving the night (see what I did there?). Needless to say, results are mixed at best.
lazy and either title,

The first thing any viewer will notice about SICK is its pacing. Which can be called "deliberate" if you are looking to be kind. Honestly the film is slow. But that slow pacing isn't necessarily a deal breaker. 'The Walking Dead' is also a character based drama that happens to have "walkers." It has become the definition of slow pacing. It's also the most popular show on television. So it's obvious the template can work, and for SICK, it almost does.

First things first, the film looks great. It's always a mystery what you are going to get with independent cinema, especially with such a high end concept as the zombie apocalypse. Director Ryan M. Andrews certainly gets the most out of  his limited resources. Aesthetically, the film looks fairly close to what you would expect two years after the world has gone to shit. Maybe a bit over done in some spots. I'm not sure the wall paper would be peeling off the wall after only two years, but that's a very, and I stress a VERY, minor quibble. The look, especially when the three main characters are holed up in the house, is very dirty and claustrophobic.

The biggest issue with SICK is the fact that it doesn't feel like the film starts in earnest until the characters enter that house. Which would be fine if we started the second act there, but the characters don't enter the house until almost halfway through the film. Andrews and co-writer Chris Cull spend a lot of the early part of the film culling (pun intended) conflict from the scientist vs. military industrial complex a la Day of the Dead. Which would be awesome, however that really has nothing to do with the films overall plot, which is really Leigh coping with loss and mortal uncertainty. At least it starts out that way. Unfortunately, the film also does something that a lot of independent features do. It tries to be too cute. It gives a twist - and it's a pretty good twist. But the execution is a little clumsy. SICK feels, at times, like it's a small part of something a lot larger, or the first part to a trilogy. There are allusions to a lot of interesting, different, things that don't really pay off.

I know it sounds like at this point I'm just piling on. I assure you I am not. The film is actually pretty good for what it is - an independent character driven post apocalyptic horror film. Andrews gets some very good performances out of the main cast, especially lead actress Christina Aceto, which makes some of the films later decisions even more curious. Richard Roy Sutton certainly acquits himself well as the male lead, if you can get past his Canadian accent. It's like watching one of the Property Brothers rescue hot chicks from zombies. There are enough deep vowels to fill a Tim Hortons. I only point it out because the rest of cast doesn't have the pronounced accent, that's all. But the real star of the film is Robert Nolan. He's become the go to Canadian when you need "creepy, mixed motivation, middle aged guy." Andrews and the script serve his strengths perfectly in this film.

SICK is a bit of a mixed bag, and while there is a lot of negative in my review, there is plenty of positive in the film. The direction is top notch. The acting is very good. And the script while maddeningly slow and meandering for the first half of the film really kicks it in to high gear about halfway through and doesn't really let up until the films final frame.

*** and 1/2 stars out of *****

SICK: Survive the Night, is scheduled to hit DVD/VOD on January the 6th, 2015. Check it out. That's it for me. As always thanks for reading and "enjoy every sandwich."

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