Ratings Key

= Excellent. The best the genre has to offer.
1/2 = Very Good. Perhaps not "perfect," but undoubtedly a must-see.
★★★ = Good. Accomplishes what it sets out to do and does it well.
★★1/2 = Fair. Clearly flawed and nothing spectacular, but competently made. OK entertainment.
★★ = Mediocre. Either highly uneven or by-the-numbers and uninspired.
1/2 = Bad. Very little to recommend.
= Very Bad. An absolute chore to sit through.
NO STARS! = Abysmal. Unwatchable dreck that isn't even bad-movie amusing.
SBIG = So Bad It's Good. Technically awful movies with massive entertainment value.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Home Sick (2007) [filmed in 2003]

... aka: Solace

Directed by:
Adam Wingard

I remember hearing something about this movie back in 2003 when it was still being called Solace and then forgot all about it. I guess somewhere along the way the film's title was changed to Home Sick and now 5 years later (!) it's finally making its DVD debut via Synapse. I have to wonder how any movie with no less than three bankable horror movie stars in the cast, as well as some explicitly gory scenes and a somewhat interesting premise, could sit around unreleased for so long, but now I think I know why. This movie was a complete and utter mess! In fact, at about the midway point, I found myself wondering if the movie was ever actually finished or not. If I had to venture a guess, I'd say they ran out of time and / or money and had to stop production early, then went into the editing room and tried to salvage it. Huge chunks seem to be missing from the film, and that results in a movie that's not only illogical, but one that's full of sloppy continuity errors, hacked editing splices and incompetent scene transitions. While that kind of technical ineptitude may pass for surrealism to some people, I don't buy it. In addition, the acting, dialogue and character interactions are not only bad, they're horrendous! And they're horrendous to the point where you're constantly being distracted by how terrible they are. This film also contains what may well be the worst "acting" performance I've ever seen in any film. No reason to name any names. When you see him, you'll know!

After watching a couple of topless Goth hookers make out and having his request for a golden shower denied, a weary-looking guy (Jeff Dylan Graham) runs off to a convenience store. When he returns to his hotel room, he discovers one of his lady friends has been hacked to pieces. A mysterious, gloved killer sneaks up behind him, stabs him through the head with a knife and he keels over in the bathtub after yakking up about a pint of blood. The film then cuts to "earlier that day," as Claire (Lindley Evans), an annoyingly sullen, chain-smoking emo downer is whining about being dragged to a party by her friend Mark (Forrest Pitts). When they get there they discover it's not much of a party, as only three other people have shown up - loud-mouth jerk-off Tim (Matt Lero), timid Robert (Will Akers) and slutty Candice (Tiffany Shepis). It seems like everyone there has a drug and alcohol problem, except for Claire; she's just depressed and tried to slit her wrists. Fun times. All of the talk scenes are terribly awkward and almost all of the dialogue is shallow and unnatural-sounding. None of the characters are even remotely likable either, so you have a hard time caring about anything that happens to any of them later on. And what gives with the under-eye makeup? I know they're supposed to be drug addicts and suicide cases, but you don't need to smear orangish paint all the way down to their nostrils to make us remember it.

Finally adding a little excitement to the proceedings is a weirdo (Bill Moseley), dressed in a blue suit and bow tie, carrying a suitcase full of razor blades and flashing a freakishly white smile, who barges into the apartment unannounced. He grabs Shepis and tells everyone to "Give me the name of someone you hate." People throw out names of a boss, a drug dealer, a rapist mechanic, and an ex-boyfriend. The final guy says he hates everyone in the room. Smooth move. Mr. Suitcase exits the film never to be heard from or seen again. Is he a serial killer? A demon? A figment of someone's imagination? The film doesn't answer that. Before long, the "hated" people named start getting killed off in gory ways by a masked assailant. Well actually, some other people who weren't named at all start getting killed, too. I don't know about you, but I can't stand when a movie establishes rules and then doesn't even bother to stick by them. What's the point of even having the rules? That's just irritating.

And who the hell is the masked killer running amok? Is he one of them? Is he a demon? Is he Mr. Suitcase? Is he Ronald McDonald? The film doesn't answer that either. It all leads to the surviving characters visiting a flag-waving backwoods redneck (Tom Towles) who has a surplus of firearms on hand but would rather talk about chili. Some kind of demonic monster shows up there and everyone basically starts laying into one another. So yeah, it wants you to take it seriously for the first hour with its pouty, self-absorbed and / or obnoxious characters before abruptly changing its tone, as if to say "Hey, we don't know how to end this thing, so let's just make it spastic and idiotic and irreverent and maybe people will buy it as camp. We'll make the characters scream and run around a lot and overact and say silly things, and then add lots more gore, and no one will know the difference." Uh huh.

Speaking of gore, that's the sole reason one might want to check this out. There are decapitations, disembowelments, a head stomped in, a foot sliced in half, a body axed in two, a hole punched through a face, fingernails ripped off, chests ripped open and much more. So if gore's all you want from your horror films, you may enjoy this. The fx are pretty good. Other than that, it's an amateurish, irritating, disjointed, badly acted / written / directed and seemingly unfinished mess.


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