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Bob Doto [Celluloid 01.23.09] movie review horror

Year: 2007
Release date: coming soon
Directors: Eben McGarr
Writers: Eben McGarr
IMDB: link
Trailer: link
Review by: Bob Doto
Rating: 6.5 or 8 out of 10 (depending on my mood)

First, I want to make something clear. Today I gave this film a 6.5. I can, however, easily see myself giving this film an eight. I’m fine with that, because it makes sense. SICK GIRL is a good film, with some really disturbing imagery and great acting by the lead. It is also, ironically, a very pleasing film to watch, that is, in between the scenes where our leading lady wreaks torturous havoc on the moving flesh of the world. During those scenes SICK GIRL is not a nice film to watch. I predict, just as the themes and beauty in this film are disparate, so too will this film polarize its audience. That is why I am coolly hovering somewhere near the center with a generous nod to higher numbers.

SICK GIRL tells the story of Izzy Shea (Leslie Andrews), an annoyingly disturbed “crazy girl,” who, as the synopsis tells us, “wants to f*ck her older brother, protect her younger brother, and torture everyone else out in her barn.” That’s a dead-on synopsis and Andrews is a fine choice for giving life to that tale. I have seen interviews of this tattooed straight-edge lady and, despite her predilection for photographing herself as if she were dead, she reads like me and a number of other straight-edge kids I knew growing up: into punk/hardcore music, and whatever else compliments that, be it comic books, fanzines, vegan bake-offs, or selling patches at shows. Kids being more or less a good kids. Izzy, however, is not a good kid. And this is where it gets complicated.

While the film certainly gives us plenty of reasons to hate Izzy (she’s an overbearing, terrorizing, self-righteous by way of psychosis, torturing, and murderous teenager), the film actually includes enough “The world is a tough place” tropes (strict nuns, bitchy popular girls, bullies) to, I’m guessing, get me to feel for this horrible person.

This is where my rating of the film plummets. I don’t need a moral lesson in my disturbed-kid-gone-slasher films. Why? Because there isn’t one. Films, by their very nature, are manipulations of the psyche. We play along. But, to attempt to manipulate me into thinking that Izzy is the way she is because of her home life (absent parents and dead brother), is insulting. Not to mention, it’s yet another example of every bystander wanting to pass the buck. It’s the music. No it’s the parents. No it’s the vacancy that is modern-day living. Let’s be real. The girl’s got a piece of ink on her back the size of Texas, and I’m to believe she has no one to hang out with? She has no ideological support system? Where’d she get the idea (oops, and the money) to get all inked up?! Because we are not given any information about Izzy’s life outside of the home (friends?) we are meant to accept that this poor lady is all alone, that because of the unfair burden placed on this youthful brother-lover, she should be empathized with. I don’t buy it. In life, where there is an inherent complexity to all circumstances? Yes. But in time-constrained films with posters and Myspace pages? Not so much.

In one of Chris Rock’s many moments of brilliance, he commented on the so-called “Trench Coat Mafia” and how in the media the three were depicted as having no friends. His response? “There were THREE of ‘em! I don’t even have three friends NOW!” That is to say, again, I don’t buy it. Being an engaged film watcher, I don’t accept as true only that which is portrayed. Izzy has a life outside the confines of this story, and we are not being shown the whole picture. We are allowed only to see the unfortunate home life and burdens placed on this teenager and expected to swallow it as prescriptive. The truth is, most of the young white kid-killers I have read about were racist pigs, so….

I admit it sounds like I really disliked this film. Truth is, I think this film is really good. It contains some truly beautiful moments and there is a mature handling of silent space. The scene where Izzy is hosing down a metal bucket outside the barn and her younger brother looks on from across the field? Wonderful. The natural lighting? Seductive. The feel and pace of the film is not unlike BREAKING THE WAVES or some of the later Dogma95 films. That’s a good thing in my opinion. And, while a number of (blood thirsty) people have been talking about the ending: Oh, it’s a surprise! Oh it’s so great! I’m more interested in the introduction. Excellent, excellent, excellent editing. Disturbingly superb use of silence. I felt like I was in an anechoic chamber (which is a weird experience in and of itself) where the walls were covered in crystal clear moving scenes of potential mayhem (figure that one out!).

So, yes, this film is well done. I would recommend it. It is also problematic, which, good for it, only adds to its positive qualities. Next time, though, if you’re going to attempt to relay the complexity that is the forgotten youth of our generation (and I’m not yet positive you had intended to do that), show more, but try less. In many ways, an hour and fifteen minutes is a lot of time! Make good use of it and spend less money staging extended torture scenes and more time developing your leading characters. The pay-off is way better.

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UncleB (13 years ago) Reply

Leslie Andrews is slightly twisted. I'm really looking forward to getting a copy of this.


Danica Catindig (8 years ago) Reply

I saw this movie and I can say that truly this is very disturbing.

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