Stars: Skye McCole Bartusiak, Marc Donato, Debbie Rochon, Cas Rooney, Greg Dorchak | Written and Directed by Tim T. Cunningham
Tim T. Cunningham is a name you may not recognise but he has been working as a visual effect artist since 1997 on some of Hollywood’s biggest blockbusters, including Armageddon, The Patriot, X-Men First Class and most recently Snow White and the Huntsman. Having lensed his first feature, Xtracurricular, in 2003; Cunningham gets back behind the camera for Sick Boy, a low-budget horror movie featuring that most-familiar of horror tropes – the perils of babysitting…
Perpetual slacker Lucy (Bartusiak) has had job after job, seemingly unable to stay interested in her work for too long. After quitting her job as a dental assistant and arguing with her fiance (Degrassi‘s Marc Donato) over family finances, she steps in for a friend to babysit for a local woman, Dr. Gordan (Rochon), whose young boy Jeremy is confined to his room due to illness. Despite being paid handsomely under the proviso that she only stay on the ground floor and call if anything happens, irresponsible Lucy decides to snoop round the house – a decision she later regrets when she discovers what “illness” Jeremy actually has.
Now the idea of a babysitter stumbling across something she shouldn’t isn’t anything new in horror. In fact some of the greatest films in the genre are based on that very concept – Halloween and House of the Devil to name just two. And whilst Sick Boy may not rank as one of the best examples of the sub-genre, it still has plenty to offer horror fans.
Sick Boy is, like House of the Devil before it, a film that spends a good amount of its running time building up the dramatic tension – you know Lucy is going to snoop around, you know she’s going to find something she shouldn’t but it’s a matter of how long director Cunningham can keep you on tenterhooks before unleashing the films true nature on what is, by now, an eager audience. And that true nature? When it comes it turns the movie into something completely different… Who expected Sick Boy to turn into a zombie movie? Possessed demon child maybe. But zombie? That was a nice surprise.
Cunningham actually plants the seed of the idea early on as Lucy peruses photos of Dr. Gordan and her family in Venezuela (a plot point that is picked up on during the film epilogue) but when he truly reveals just what is going on – in a darkly-lit eerie scene between Lucy and the zombifying Mr. Gordan – it only made me eager to see where the rest of the film was headed.
Of course this is a horror film, so it is subject to some of the more traditional horror movie cliches – in particular some really bad decisions made by the irresponsible Lucy (don’t all heroines make stupid decisions though?), but there’s enough original ideas here to keep even the most jaded of zombie movie fan watching.
Sick Boy is out now on DVD from 101 Films.