Adam Wingard’s Home Sick

Adam Wingard has become something of a household name lately, blasting on scene with his vicious shocker You’re Next, thrilling audiences with his retro cult specimen The Guest and solidifying his presence as a filmmaker to be reckoned with by scoring the reins to Godzilla Vs. Kong, the dude is a top dog who is here to stay. Many aren’t aware of his debut film though, and fair enough because it’s about as low budget, under the radar and avant-garde as horror can be but it’s so, so worth watching to triangulate the evolution of a fascinating artist from the murkiest pits of lo-fi, Grindhouse schlock to the loftiest echelons of Hollywood high gloss. It’s called Home Sick, he made it on a shoestring budget back in the mid 2000’s and it’s an absolutely diabolical treat, but only if you can stomach some truly jarring moments of gore and have one demented sense of humour with the capacity for.. let’s just say… abstract thought. Low budget, practical effects driven schlockers like these are a dime a dozen, but this one is worth it’s weight in gold simply for going that extra mile to make it memorable and stand out from the cheaply drawn masses. It starts out slow, with an eerie opening credit musical jingle and animated sequence that could suggest all kinds of horrors to come. We meet a group of friends in the Deep South going through the motions of partying and quarreling. Tiffany Shepis does a wonderfully nutty little riff on her scream queen shtick who likes to rail cocaine at her graveyard janitor job and swing a mop around with gale force. Anywho, this weird little troupe is kicking back one night, when into the apartment walks a very ill adjusted stranger named Mr. Suitcase (the legendary Bill Moseley), and sits down on the couch like he owns the place. He’s chipper, charming and affable to a terrifying level, as he opens up his suitcase full of razor blades that he calls “gifts”. He asks them all to pick one person in their life they hate and want to wish dead, slicing a nasty gash on his forearm for each answer. The hilarious lot deadpan member of the group (Forrest Pitts, in a priceless performance of comedic eccentricities) foolishly blurts out that he wishes everyone in the room dead, and then the real fun begins. A giant masked killer begins stalking and killing pretty much every character around in ways so brutal your balls will shrink into your pancreas. Seriously, it’s like they sat down in a boardroom and systematically came up with every squirm inducing way to inflict violence on a human body, and gave their results to the storyboard artist and effects team. It all comes to a chaotic, deranged finale when they take refuge with Uncle Johnnie (the late great Tom Towles, always brilliant) a gun toting chili enthusiast. That’s where the film comes off the rails, but it’s seemingly deliberate and actually quite hilarious, as everyone pretty much goes certifiably bananas and loses the plot all at once like feral kindergarten class in overdrive. There’s some thought and care put into the writing, and as such the characters, however odd or over the top, seem like real people, albeit some strange and undesirable folks. The film oozes unsettling atmosphere right from the get-go, fervent in its aggressively weird sense of style and never taking the conventional route that most horrors end up with. Like I said, if your sense of humour has an affinity for the bizarre, demented and off the wall (think David Lynch meets Tim & Eric meets The Evil Dead meets John Waters), you’re gonna love this little gem. On top of being a laugh riot, it’s just freaky enough to earn it’s horror classification, something which many films in the genre just can’t claim. As to why it’s called HomeSick, though? Couldn’t tell you, and there’s no reference to it the entire time. Perhaps it’s called that for the folks that will be thoroughly repelled and repulsed, those who watch it expecting a run of the mill, cookie cutter slasher and feel uncomfortable with the oddness, getting “home sick” for their safer horror fare. As for me, I’m right at home up the weird end of the alley, and love this type of thing and it’s one hell of a fascinating debut for any director to start out with.

-Nate Hill

Adam Wingard’s The Guest

The world is currently obsessed, it seems, with 80’s throwback media, and as a die hard fan of the style, I say bring on as much of the delirious synth music, lurid body horror and deep cut, bleeding neon as possible. From Stranger Things and It Follows to The Void it’s been a heyday renaissance, and Adam Wingard’s The Guest is a bit more obscure but no less of a celebration of the genre. Working from a vague Terminator/bone smashing action vibe, it’s a neat reworking of the ‘invincible antihero thrown into quiet suburbia’ vibe, but that’s so specific that maybe it just invented a new sub-sub genre. Dan Stevens is a a steely eyed new talent who has shed his Downton Abbey pretty boy image like a snakeskin and emerged as a serpent of solid tough guy portrayals (check out his awesome bad/good guy work in A Walk Among The Tombstones), and he carries the whole flick here as the mysterious David, a strange and scary dude who shows up on the doorstep of an all American family, claiming to be the army buddy of their deceased son. There’s clearly more to the story, as the familiar formula sinks in and unwinds, but it’s terrific fun watching it all play out time and time again. He’s got a particular set of skills reminiscent of the super-soldiers of that era, impresses the family patriarch (Leland Orser) who shows simultaneous fascination and suspicion with this new dark stranger in their household. He also gets close with their daughter (It Follow’s Maika Monroe), until he’s heavily invested in her’s and the family’s life, but it’s also the one thing that’s putting them, and the whole damn neighbourhood, on a course for trouble. Death and danger seem to follow David, like when a shadowy Army spook (Lance Reddick subtly channels 80’s Danny Glover) shows up looking for answers, and despite his emerging best intentions for the family, at the end of the day he’s a volatile black ops asset that can barely control his own trajectory. It’s a slight film that breezes by and never hits too hard, but sits in the genre groove wonderfully, with all cast members giving good shout outs. Wingard made his debut years ago with an impressive little Troma-eque bizarro slasher flick called Home Sick, went on to collaborate on the famed VHS anthology series and has wowed yet again here, I hope he continues to be a wicked voice for horror. Composer Steve Moore lets the synths rip, roar and rumble for a score that’s right up my 80’s fanatic alley, and gilds the film neatly. Cool stuff.

-Nate Hill