BHFF: “Sick, Sick, Sick” is a Terminal Case

Sick, Sick, Sick Luiza Kosovski in Sick, Sick, Sick (Brooklyn Horror Film Festival)

Alice Furtado’s obsessive teen romance-horror is long on atmosphere, and lean on everything else.

(This review is part of our coverage of the 2019 Brooklyn Horror Film Festival.)

We never learn, do we? Despite understanding that it’s tampering in God’s domain, and an abomination of nature that never results in anything but horror, we just keep trying to raise the dead. It doesn’t matter if our reasons for it are sound, or how recently dead the person in question might be, it never comes to anything but a bad end. So too does it for the protagonist of Alice Furtado‘s Sick, Sick, Sick (or so we assume), a horror-romance that’s a wonderful travelogue for the islands south of Brazil, but not much else.

Teenager Silvia (Luisa Kosovski) is in love for the first time, with Artur (Juan Paiva), a mysterious new classmate. Artur is the typical bad boy with the heart of a poet, hiding the fact that he’s a hemophiliac. Love makes Artur a little more willing to live his life like an actual teenager, playing sports and skateboarding, until tragically he falls and bleeds to death from a head injury.

Silvia is so grief-stricken over Artur’s untimely death that she becomes nearly catatonic, spending most of her time looking at pictures of him on her phone and masturbating. Her concerned parents decide that what she needs is a family vacation, and they travel to a remote island south of Brazil. Inexplicably sleeping in a tent outside the vacation house, Silvia wanders aimlessly around the island and reads a book about the history of voodoo, eventually hatching a plan to bring her beloved back from the dead.

Let me clarify: the “bringing her beloved back from the dead” part doesn’t happen until almost ninety minutes into the movie, and there’s only another fifteen minutes after that.

Sick, Sick, Sick is certainly the most relaxing movie about the dead rising from the grave that you’ll ever see, with numerous long shots of the tide rolling in and palm trees gently blowing in the wind. Wherever this takes place, you’ll want to make arrangements with your local travel agent to go there immediately. It looks really nice and has an effectively sensual, thumping score, and that’s about all that can be said about it. As a romantic drama, however, it’s a slog, and except for the last few minutes, it has no elements of horror at all. 

Sick, Sick, Sick is certainly the most relaxing movie about the dead rising from the grave that you’ll ever see, with numerous long shots of the tide rolling in and palm trees gently blowing in the wind.

This is disappointing, considering that director Furtado’s biggest influence for the movie was reportedly Pet Sematary. The difference is that, from the beginning, Pet Sematary, both the film adaptations and certainly the novel, not only developed a sense of foreboding but also allowed the audience to care about the characters, making what happens to them all the more gut-wrenching. Fully 90% of the plot focuses on Silvia, who is, frankly, not a terribly interesting character. Like a lot of teenage movie characters written by adults, she’s an affectless personality void, who speaks and carries herself like she’s a world-weary 35-year-old.

Obviously what’s “sick, sick, sick” is Silvia’s obsessive love for Artur, the kind of love in which she’s so distraught by his death that she vomits blood, but she’s written as such a blank that that doesn’t really come across. Even when the undead Artur eventually shows up, her reaction to the sight of him is one of impassiveness. Is she happy to see him? Sad? Scared? No idea.

But clearly both Furtado and the camera love Kosovski, as evidenced by so many long, close-up shots of her just staring off into space or looking at a ceiling you could make a drinking game out of them after a while. When the camera isn’t tight on her face, it’s following her from behind as she trudges around the island (there must be some significance to the triangle tattoo on the back of Silvia’s neck, but I’ll be darned if I could figure out what it is). It all starts to feel like outtakes from a modeling shoot that someone decided at the last minute to turn into a horror movie.

What’s particularly frustrating about a movie that doesn’t work is when you can see how it could have worked. Spending more time developing Silvia and Artur’s relationship would have helped. A few shots of them indifferently wandering around their neighborhood and having sex in the woods doesn’t really equate to a love so powerful it’s enough to drive someone to dabble in necromancy. At no point does Silvia even use the word “love” to describe how she feels about Artur (although, to be fair, she barely speaks at all, even before Artur dies). It feels more like she wants him back because she’s bored and lonely, and not because she can’t live without him.

Whether this is a flaw in the screenwriting and/or Kosovski’s detached performance, or whether those choices were very deliberate, it makes for a dull, distant movie. Sick, Sick, Sick’s depiction of the supposed insanity of first love is disappointingly restrained.

Sick, Sick, Sick Trailer:

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