Tim T. Cunningham
Tim T. Cunningham
Skye McCole Bartusiak as Lucy
Marc Donato as Chris
Debbie Rochon as Dr. Helen Gordan
Sick Boy marks the second consecutive film I’ve covered that left me in a pickle when it came down to putting a review into words. Unlike Room 237 (my other recent obstacle), which left me perplexed by the depth of thought and analysis from the flick’s contributing interviewees, Sick Boy has me on the ropes because I simply cannot bring myself to spoil this story for interested viewers. If you’ve heard of this one, but know little of what it’s actually about, there are a few fun surprises offered forth. Sick Boy isn’t perfect, but this is a clearly inspired little low budget offering that works on multiple levels.
Lucy’s a bride-to-be with a nasty habit of tossing jobs as regularly as the trash. But when she gets an opportunity to slide into the ideal babysitting gig, she capitalizes. This seeming dream job quickly unravels, as Lucy discovers that there’s something… unique about the boy she looks after, and there’s something quite unsettling about the boy’s mother, who insists the boy – who is ill, if you hadn’t guessed – have zero contact with Lucy. Lucy’s there to sit upstairs and make emergency calls if necessary. She isn’t there to go downstairs and check on the youngster. Under any circumstance at that. It’s a strange setup, and curiosity on Lucy’s end leads to imminent disaster.
That’s the gist of the story, but there really is a whole lot more to it than that. You won’t get much more from me in the way of thorough details, however. I refuse to kill this one before you give it a chance.
Before I get into the qualities of the film, let me pin down a few of the weaknesses viewers should prepare to contend with. Technically, this isn’t a gorgeous film. It isn’t a remarkable aesthetic accomplishment. Director Tim T. Cunningham chooses to go handheld in shots that desperately need use of the tri, the angles, and the general cinematography are a little flat. There simply aren’t any risks taken. The sound is also inconsistent. And those are the markedly rough edges in this production.
Now here are the pluses, which heavily outweigh the production’s deficiencies. McCole Bartusiak (who’s already appeared in some quality efforts, including The Patriot, Don’t Say a Word andBoogeyman) isn’t pitch-perfect, but she gives it a solid go. She really tries to deliver a memorable and passionate performance, and her moving sequences all but erase the memory of her few minor stumbles. She’s complimented wonderfully by Marc Donato, who showcases a refinement that surprises. Well, it surprises if you haven’t seen The Final, in which he was every bit as awesome as he was in this specific case. Debbie Rochon does a fine job as the creepy and mysterious mother. And that’s just the work of the cast that stuns. There’s more to soak up here.
What really catches off guard is a particular sequence that is legitimately frightening. I jumped. My skin crawled, and I smiled, remembering that feeling that I receive so rarely from film; that tangible fear. Perhaps equally important is the fact that this particular shot is the first serious attempt at scares. For Cunningham (who also penned the script) to hit the mark so effectively on the first go leaves a major impression, and while that measure of intensity is never achieved again during the film, there are some very taut pieces of cinema to take in, especially during the final act. This is a creepy little flick that fights to be far better than its budget should allow.
Sick Boy is very enjoyable. Flawed as it may be, it thrives as an independent feature, and leaves us eager to see more work from Cunningham. This is a guy who understands mystery, and knows that simplicities can be as successful as their allowed to be. Put in the work to craft a quality story, and a bare bones concept can transform into a meaty production worthy of note. For my money,Sick Boy is a winner flat out. It’s not likely to turn this crew into household names, but it is likely to open up some new doors that just might lead to something very special.