It’s been a while since I’ve watched any zombie films and after watching SICK: SURVIVE THE NIGHT it’ll be even longer until my next one!! I always find it interesting when a zombie film begins on an apocalyptic note talking about the hundreds of millions of people that are going to die, but as the film moves on there’s barely any zombies walking around. SICK is one of those low budget zombie flicks that focuses more on the interactions of the survivors than it does on giving us a zombiegasm. This in-itself isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The Zombie Master himself George Romero’s NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, DAWN OF THE DEAD, and DAY OF THE DEAD all focus on the human characters, their interactions, and tensions. So what’s the difference between Romero’s films and SICK? Romero created characters who were interesting and that the viewer actually cared about.
SICK begins (as do many, many zombie flicks) with a news report on a deadly new virus sweeping the globe and killing the majority of people that come into contact with it. But what makes this virus so deadly is that it’s “changing” people. The first character we’re introduced to is Dr. Leigh Rozetta (Christina Aceto), a research scientist who has been studying this new virus. She’s so important that the military sent an armed escort to her house to take her away to a safe research bunker where she can further study the virus. As the military escorts arrive Rozetta is saying goodbye to her sick mother and dedicated father who, for some reason, refuse to go along with her. We then skip to two years later where we find Rozetta working in what’s supposed to be a secured military-run research facility (sound familiar?) but what looks more like a cheap office building. The world is now overrun with zombies, humanity is dying, and there’s random pockets of survivors, called “vultures,” trying to survive on the bones of what was once civilization.
Along with Rozetta in the facility are Claudia (Jennifer Polansky), her bestie, and some military meatheads who apparently follow their orders – that is if those orders are to overact and create over-the-top, unbelievable characters. There’s a lot of tension between the soldiers and the scientists (that sounds familiar too) and we see one of the tense moments between these two groups but that subplot is quickly forgotten. Rozetta also consults with another scientist at a different location. Dr. Joselda Fehmi (Debbie Rochon) seems to be making great strides with the virus and has even come up with a way to slow down the infection if you’re bitten (another interesting plot element that isn’t given enough development). I’m giving Rochon a pass on her appearance in SICK. I bet the script read really well. There’s some decent ideas in here that are just never explored. Besides, we all need to pay bills!! The soldiers are there to protect the scientists and to acquire Rozetta specimens for her experiments (wait a minute, this sounds familiar as well). But recently she’s been going through specimens like a fat man blazes through a dozen doughnuts and she’s been cut off. So she decides she’s going to go out and collect her own. She’s on a deadline though because the zombies are more active at nighttime.
Now we meet the rest of the cast. The vultures are the survivors living in Tent City and scavenging whatever few supplies are left to live off of. The two main vultures are Seph (Richard Roy Sutton) and Mckay (Robert Nolan). They were out scavenging with a larger patrol when they were ambushed by a “nest” of zombies that wiped out most of their group. As the survivors re-group they run into Rozetta and a few straggler zombies. But the three of them waste so much time bickering that they lose their sunlight and have to hole up for the night in an abandoned house. Okay. So we’re going from DAY OF THE DEAD to NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, I guess. I’m always up for a good “barricaded in the house-zombie siege” scenario. Let the zombiegasm begin!!
Not so much.
The moment they all settle into the house is the moment this film comes to a screeching halt. When Rozetta first meets Seph he’s an arrogant, violent, foul-mouthed douchebag who only cares about himself. Then after he sees Rozetta in her bra and panties (don’t ask) he suddenly becomes Mr. Nice and a likable guy. Really poorly written character. Mckay, on the other hand, doesn’t go through such a drastic change. Actor Robert Nolan, who plays Mckay, has been in a few shorts that I’ve previously reviewed. He starred in FAMILIAR and WORM, and if you’ve seen either of these shorts then you know what a fantastic actor Nolan is. Quite frankly, and this is going to sound odd, Nolan is too good an actor to have been in SICK. I don’t mean that this film is “beneath” him; I mean he’s too intense of an actor to be in this film. The level of intensity he brought to his role is way more than what the other, less experienced actors brought. The other actors aren’t bad, but when they’re onscreen with Nolan they look like community theater amateurs.
So far SICK suffers from some poorly written characters, an uneven cast that has experienced actors (Rochon and Nolan) paired up with newbies (Aceto and Sutton), and some bad dialogue:
Betsy: Why you don’t use a gun, I will never know.
Burak: Knives don’t jam bro.
But these can be forgiven because the overall acting is good and there’s some decent ideas here. But SICK suffers from the one thing that I just can’t forgive: It’s boring. When Rozetta, Mckay, and Seph hole up in the house for the night we don’t get a siege of zombies attacking them, we get a siege of conversations. I’m talking endless chatter!! The characters just sit around, get drunk, and talk. If that doesn’t make ya check your watch a few dozen times, nothing will!! What makes this so unbearable is that there’s no point to all the chatter. There’s no plot points being given, there’s no character development, there’s no nothing. It feels like filler to extend the run time to a marketable length.
Director Ryan M. Andrews (who also write the script with Chris Cull) passes up on some of the interesting elements in the film (the vultures, the virus itself, and the race for a cure) in place of … well, in place of nothing. There are barely any zombies in the film and you never feel like any character is in any real danger. There’s also characters who are introduced and then subsequently forgotten. In the end after the end credits roll you’ll be asking yourself why? Why did I just watch SICK and what was the actual story the filmmakers were trying to tell? I’d like to see what Andrews can do in the future after he gets some more experience, but for now unless you’re looking for a whole lotta talking I’d pass on SICK: SURVIVE THE NIGHT.
Director: Ryan M. Andrews (& co-writer with Chris Cull)
Plot: 2 out of 5 stars
Gore: 3.5 out of 10 skulls
Zombie Mayhem: 1.5 out of 5 brains
Reviewed by Scott Shoyer