An underground, DIY-type horror flick, Home Sick angles to blend the surreal, gore-drenched and terrifying, and it achieves this left-field commingling to middling effect. There’s a lot to admire about the atmosphere and mood created on a shoestring budget, if ultimately Home Sick collapses under the weight of a thin premise and too much forced quirkiness.
Recently, if unhappily, back from Hollywood, Claire (Lindley Evans) submits to a small town homecoming get-together with Robert (Will Akers), Mark (Forrest Pitts), Candice (Nightmare Man‘s Tiffany Shepis) and others. The social awkwardness is back-burnered when a grinning idiot who calls himself “Mr. Suitcase” (Bill Moseley) crashes the party with a briefcase full of razorblades, and starts passive-aggressively forcing the partygoers to identify people they hate, all while slashing his own arms. Soon, a black-hooded supernatural killer is loose, killing each person identified by the teens. The terrified friends realize they may also be viciously murdered because Tim (Matt Lero) awkwardly joked that he hated everyone at the party, too. As the corpses pile up and the body parts fly, the surviving kids enlist the help of Uncle Johnny (Tom Towles, of Grindhouse and Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer), a crazed, chili-loving militiaman who has a stockpile of weapons that might help them stay alive.
While the slasher-gore quotient is straight out of an early Peter Jackson playbook, writer Evan Katz tries to fold in some of the off-kilter tonal quirks of David Lynch, which mainly seems to mean oddball, stilted dialogue and set-ups which lend themselves to artificially long pauses. As directed by Adam Wingard, though, some of this emphasis on atmospheric tension gets traded in for excessively bloody effects, which admittedly are fairly nicely rendered, except for too-red blood. The acting on display here runs the gamut, too. Moseley (Rob Zombie’s Halloween, The Devil’s Rejects) has a certain unhinged, manic energy, and his brief appearance is jolting and effective. Evans, in her debut, is also fairly engaging. Unfortunately, other actors seem to be very consciously channeling better known performers (Steve Buscemi is an influence), which gets irksome after a while. While we’re nitpicking, there’s a lot of willfully pallid, over-exagerrated eye make-up, too — a couple actors look like zombies pulling exam season all-nighters.
Attractively packaged in a regular Amray case with gold foil title lettering, Home Sick is presented in 1.85:1 widescreen, with a Dolby digital 2.0 stereo surround audio track. Director Wingard and writer Katz, longtime collaborators, sit for a nervous, chatty audio commentary track, and a menu screen with a background full of razor blades gives way to a slate of special features that include a deleted opening sequence and a trio of short film projects from the aforementioned pair — the seven-minute 1,000 Year Sleep, the 32-minute The Girlfriend and the three-minute Laura Panic, a nice, evocatively photographed mood piece in which a girl muses, via voiceover narration, that her murder of her boyfriend is but a “bump in the road” in their relationship.
There’s also an affected, experimental, very slickly (over-)produced 13-minute making-of featurette, starring Wingard, in which the director hyperactively recounts and acts out certain anecdotes from pre-production and production. Finally, Moseley sits for a six-minute interview in which he rather charmingly cops to the insecurities of an actor when, just prior to filming, a (supposed) friend asks him while running some lines if he’s going to give a performance based on such clichés. To purchase the movie via Amazon, click here. For further information on Home Sick, as well as other Synapse titles, visit their website by clicking here. C+ (Movie) B+ (Disc)