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Synapse Films presents
Home Sick (2007)

Mark: Why don't you just tell us what you want?
Mr. Suitcase: Want? I don't want anything. I have it all, you know. I am here to give and not to receive.

- (Forrest Pitts, Bill Moseley)

Review By: Rich Rosell   
Published: November 03, 2008

Stars: Lindley Evans, Forrest Pitts, Tiffany Shepis
Other Stars: Bill Moseley, Will Akers, Matt Lero, Brandon Carroll, Tom Towles, Patrick Engel, Shaina Fewell, E.L. Katz, Jonathan Thornton, X-Zanthia, Jeff Dylan Graham, L.C. Holt
Director: Adam Wingard

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (violence, gore, language, nudity)
Run Time: 01h:29m:07s
Release Date: August 26, 2008
UPC: 654930308493
Genre: horror

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B B-B-C+ A-

DVD Review

My days of salivating over a gore-drenched indie feature like the mucho twisted Home Sick are somewhat behind me, and what at one time would have been required viewing has as of late surfaced only due to obligations related to this reviewing gig. And those genre titles have been fewer and farther between. It's not that I've necessarily lost the stomach for it, it's just I've lost interest. The mini-budget gore-filled slasher genre has truly withered on the vine for me, and perhaps it was my revisiting it here that makes Adam Wingard's Home Sick seem like such a weird burst of giddy maniacal excess, a kind of unpredictable downer where bodies and their parts are torn asunder and the blood flows like big waves.

I'm not a shrink, but clearly Wingard has a deep seeded Fulci/Hooper/Argento jones that he needs to unleash, and with Home Sick he has carved out a film that looks like a retro-slasher flick from the decades ago, piled high here with a Rob Zombie-ish approach to strange characters and plentiful death in all manner of gory ways. He's even sprinkled a a couple of familiar Zombie/genre faces here, with Bill Moseley stealing the show in his one scene as a suitcase-filled-with-razor-blades nutball, while Tom Towles is equally unhinged as a chili-cooking-man-with-an-arsenal who may or may not be the salvation of our heroes. Tack on a solid role for the always enjoyable genre babe Tiffany Shepis, who in this one runs the gamut of alluring casual sex nudity to having a full-blown mental meltdown while wallowing on the kitchen floor in the blood of her murdered mother to having her own foot split in half toe to heel.

This is some seriously strange stuff, as Wingard and producer/writer pal E.L. Katz milk the over-the-top best out of Moseley's eerily glib Mr. Suitcase, who crashes a Christmas party (the kind where you drink beer and watch Evil Dead Trap 2) and demands to know who each person hates the most. As he happily slices up his own arm with a razor blade for each name, it isn't long before those hated individuals wind up dead. And I mean dead in very bloody, gory ways, courtesy of some black-hooded weirdo. As the realization that their own lives are in jeopardy, the ragtag group of twentysomethings try to stay one step ahead of their own doom, but that does little to stop a rash of curbstomps, hammers to skulls, knives through heads, manual decapitations, full body severings and a particularly weird hand through the face moment that is as about as ridiculous as it sounds.

Wingard and Katz apply their apparent love of the extreme slasher genre here, wallowing contentedly in all sorts of demented death and destruction, with each bit of gore seeming to have to top what has come before it. The special effects—courtesy of Jonathan Thornton and Disturbing Images—are pretty solid for a shoestring feature like this, and they are a mix of silly and gross buoyed by lots of blood, with Wingard obviously not believing in leaving much to the imagination. He puts his characters through hell, and even when they seem on the verge of besting the hooded bad guy, things propel down an even more mangled path.

There's a retro overlay to Home Sick—and while not as cleverly polished as a Zombie homage (Devil's Rejects, for example)—Wingard works it hard on the cheap. The presence of people like Moseley, Towles and Shepis does much to elevate the curious cool of a film like this; and as a title produced by Don May Jr. and Synapse Films it would seem that there is some stock being put in Wingard and Katz as some kind of horror/gore team to watch. In the meantime, Home Sick treats human flesh like so much ground chuck, and it does so with a relentless disregard for subtlety or finesse.

This is definitely not a film to watch while eating pizza, sausage or anything with red sauce. Trust me.

Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: B-


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Home Sick comes from Synapse in 1.85:1 nonanamorphic widescreen, and—low-budget or not—given that the film was shot in this decade it seems peculiar why it hasn't been 16x9 enhanced. Whether solely budget-wise or not, Wingard has still ended up with a film that looks like a cheapo gore shocker from the mid-70s. The print is overall markedly , with edges appearing thick and soft throughout. Colors are moderately bright (especially the copious blood), and fleshtones appear accurate, as well.

Not a terribly vivid transfer, but one that does convey the whole gore-soaked and sometimes grainy exploitation aura rather well.

Image Transfer Grade: B-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes

Audio Transfer Review: The sole audio track is available in 2.0 stereo surround. It's a fairly flat mix, with voices lacking any measurable weight, instead everyone has the same sort of thick tone to their voices. There's hiss, and some dialogue crackles a bit—while certain post-production sound effects are simply too loud—yet there's a definite vintage drive-in presentation to the way it all comes out. The synthy score from Zombi, despite any real bottom end, is upfront at all times.

Audio Transfer Grade: C+


Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 12 cues and remote access
1 Deleted Scenes
1 Documentaries
4 Featurette(s)
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Adam Wingard, E.L. Katz
Packaging: generic plastic keepcase
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extras Review: Director Adam Wingard and writer/producer E.L. Katz serve up a commentary track for their Home Sick collaboration. They're a pair of chatty rascals, and their track isn't five minutes old before we're learning about 2-for-1 strippers, deer guts and one very bad neighborhood to be filming in. Surprise, surprise, but here's one of the better commentaries I've stumbled across in quite some time, one of those tracks that is fun, while at the same enlightening on the whole shoestring filmmaking process. The rewrites, the homage shots and proper shoutouts to all the onscreen gore effects, Wingard and Katz hold their own for 89 minutes, and deliver what a lot of big time filmmakers cannot: a listenable, enjoyable and, dare I say, educational commentary.

The Deleted Opening Sequence (07m:44s) is what Wingard originally shot—prior to the rewrite that led to the 2-for-1 strippers used in the more randy final print—and lays out some additional background on Claire, Mark and Robert. The Bill Moseley Interview Segment (05m:31s) has the actor pontificating on the meaning of the Mr. Suitcase character, and we see him getting his choppers painted bright white. In A Room Where Darkness Counts (12m:31s) is the disc's "making of", and in it a highly wired Wingard professes his need to make a slasher film, his love of the genre and a truly strange story involving an early pre production meeting.

The cherry on top of the supplements is the Short Films From Adam Wingard and E.L. Katz section. Inside are three shorts, all of which are magnificently dark, and in some ways are almost as good—or better—than the feature.. The tone of all three is far removed from the almost gratuitous gore found in Home Sick, but make no mistake, these are still plenty bleak and nasty. Less is more when it comes to describing the plots, because Wingard and Katz work the short form effectively and cleverly. The films included are:
The Girlfriend (31m:52s)Thousand Year Sleep (06m:33s)Laura Panic (03m:11s)

The disc is cut into 12 chapters.

Extras Grade: A-


Final Comments

Home Sick is ten shades of mondo bizarro, a gore heavy horror flick crammed tightly with a heaping ladle of adventurous bloodletting and dismemberments. Bits and pieces of this one are better than the film as a whole, though it certainly crawls along a very dark and unusual path all of its own.

A terrific commentary and some bonus short films tilt the scale on this one, making it recommended—only if you like gore. And lots of it.


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