New Line // 2007 // 90 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Tom Becker (Retired) // March 7th, 2008
Fear is infectious.
Sometimes, I really miss film.
It's great that there are less expensive alternatives out there, so that people who have a vision but don't have cash and connections can create work and get it seen. Unfortunately, it seems that a lot of HD video productions (often with direct-to-DVD releases) just aren't that visionary.
Take The Sickhouse -- please.
Here we have yet another group of uninteresting characters running around a dimly lit place where evil once happened and now dwells. Instead of pointy implements, the modus of destruction here is the black plague.
Yes, that black plague. The scourge of Europe for an impressive 500 years is back and bigger than ever, thanks to some digging at a shuttered medieval orphanage by plucky-yet-dim archeologist Anna (Gina Philips, Jeepers Creepers). Anna's a nasal-voiced American teaching in London, and she's on the verge of unearthing evidence of some centuries-old evilness involving priests and orphans.
But just as she's on the brink of a discovery that's of interest to absolutely no one, some plague residue turns up on her artifacts, and those stuffy meanies at the Department of Health tell her to get her pickaxe and take a hike.
Not one to be bossed about by the beefeaters, Anna breaks into the plague-infested orphanage the night before it's to be razed and continues her exploring. She's soon joined by group of rowdy 30-year-old teens after they drunkenly run over an apparition right outside the building. Soon, everyone is locked in, developing lesions ("That looks like plague!" Anna astutely observes), and being chased by phantoms that wear big bird's head masks.
This catch-it-on-YouTube feature has got to be the ugliest movie I've ever seen. Hand held and shot on HD video in mostly low light, it just looks like crap, grainy, muddy, and hard to watch. The editing, which consists of a quick cut every three or four seconds, doesn't help and doesn't make sense: the film is supposed to be about this building, but since the camera is constantly in motion and the edits are coming fast and furious, we have no sense of the place. All we know is that it's dingy and badly lit. It could be somebody's basement. There's certainly nothing to associate it with a medieval orphanage.
Murky as the videography is the plot, which is supposed to be about unmasking some medieval conspiracy thing called The Cult of the Black Priest. Instead, it ends up being about nothing besides people -- mainly our quartet of doughy Brits -- running around in the dark and screaming and occasionally vomiting. If you stick with this, you are rewarded with a "surprise" ending that doesn't make any more sense than the rest of the film.
The film is presented in both widescreen and full-frame transfers, and as noted, looks awful, but that's how it was shot. The audio is fine, with clear dialogue and the expected collection of eerie sounds. There are no extras on this disc aside from some previews, including one for that other locked-in-an-industrial-building classic, Return to House on Haunted Hill.
The Sickhouse is just silly, annoying, and ineptly made.
Review content copyright © 2008 Tom Becker; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2015 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: New Line
* 2.35:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 90 Minutes
Release Year: 2007
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Official Site