Synapse // 2007 // 89 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Paul Pritchard (Retired) // August 22nd, 2008
Who Do You Hate?
You know, just because your slasher movie contains plenty of gore, it doesn't necessarily mean the film is any good. That seems to be something the makers of this disjointed mess failed to take into account. In their pursuit of excessive gore -- which includes slicing feet, blowing brains out, and punching holes through heads -- writer E.L. Katz and director Adam Wingard fail to instill any semblance of a gripping story; characters lack any appealing facets and their development gets left by the wayside, just another casualty of Home Sick.
The film's premise, which is as poorly conceived as it is executed, sees a homecoming party gatecrashed by Mr. Suitcase (Bill Moseley, The Devil's Rejects), an oddball with a suitcase full of razorblades. Despite being by himself and vastly outnumbered, Mr. Suitcase is able to take control of the room. He refuses to leave until each of the partygoers names the person they hate the most. Upon the announcement of each name, Mr. Suitcase removes one razor from his suitcase and slices his arm. After a song (written by Moseley himself), he leaves, never to be seen again.
Within hours of Mr. Suitcase's appearance, the people named by the partygoers start getting bumped off, in increasingly grisly ways. Of more concern to all involved is that, foolishly, Tim (Matt Lero) said he hated everyone at the party...Doh! It's not long before the first of the partygoers has their head caved in by a hammer, leaving the rest of the group to argue over the best course of survival.
Now, I enjoy films that ask questions of me, and even take pleasure in movies that are just flat-out weird. But frequently, while watching Home Sick, I found myself asking just what the hell was going on. Maybe it's just me, but the film frequently failed to maintain a reasonable level of coherence. The problem is that Home Sick is no David Lynch (Eraserhead)-style puzzler; it is a fairly standard slasher/horror flick that suffers greatly from a poorly thought-out story. For example, Mr. Suitcase, like most everything in Home Sick, goes pretty much unexplained. Who he is and how he's linked to the events that occur is never even touched upon. Similarly, though a masked killer does pop up from time to time, his or her identity is never revealed. This wouldn't have been so bad, but for the presence of a demented garage worker, loony rednecks, and a bizarre demon, all of whom contribute to the body count. Another sequence I failed to grasp involved Candice (Tiffany Shepis, Abominable) discovering her mother's butchered corpse. Following a laughing fit, Candice strips down to her undies and bathes in her mother's blood-spattered remains. Why she does this? Your guess is as good as mine.
Wingard's direction, which is hampered even further by some scattershot editing, suffers from a serious lack of focus. Though the gore-drenched kills are reasonably well realized, they fail to excite or terrify. Dialogue-heavy scenes when the plot needs to be driven forward are deathly dull and only serve to show how poor the acting really is. Conversations between characters have no natural flow and frequently stutter, as the actors appear to struggle to remember their lines.
With the exception of Moseley and Tom Towles (House of 1000 Corpses) as the deranged chilli-loving uncle, the acting is really quite dire, regularly moving into cringe-worthy territory. A number of the actors appear to be first-timers, and, to be fair, the material they're given here would present a challenge to even the most accomplished of actors.
Home Sick is presented in a 1.85:1 widescreen transfer. The image retains a layer of grain, which I have no problem with, and is technically sound. The main problem I had with the picture stems from some poor lighting decisions, resulting in some very ugly shots.
Synapse's release of Home Sick contains a commentary with Wingard and writer E.L. Katz, though perhaps the best insight into Wingard's mindset comes from the "In A Room Where Darkness Counts" featurette. As fragmented as the film itself, this short feature offers a better understanding of Wingard's filmmaking process, as he discusses what he went through to get his debut feature made.
Wingard was only 19 when he made Home Sick and, though I commend the guy for having a go, it should be pointed out that Sam Raimi made The Evil Dead when he was a mere 22 years of age. One of these guys made a bona fide classic, the other something of a turkey. Guilty.
Review content copyright © 2008 Paul Pritchard; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2015 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 89 Minutes
Release Year: 2007
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Audio Commentary by Director Adam Wingard and Writer E.L. Katz
* Deleted Opening Sequence
* "In A Room Where Darkness Counts"
* Original Short Films from E.L. Katz and Adam Wingard
* Bill Moseley Interview