When a film doesn’t fairly come collectively, it’s usually tempting to say that one thing important is lacking. I’m not so certain that that’s true of “Hypochondriac,” a somewhat good psychodrama about repressed childhood trauma that’s additionally an underwhelming horror film about psychological sickness. Author/director Addison Heimann’s creepy and infrequently intriguing character examination appears to have been made with a transparent sense of who its protagonists are and why they behave as they do.
Heimann and his collaborators additionally appear to know precisely how they wish to current Will (Zach Villa), a traumatized potter who’s haunted—and perhaps actually stalked—by his paranoid and abusive mom (Marlene Forte). The primary factor holding again “Hypochondriac” from being a fair higher film is that it’s extra convincing for its sketchy particulars than its prevailing narrative.
In “Hypochondriac,” even somebody as hurtful and unbalanced as Will’s unnamed mother is offered with apparent care and unsparing precision. So it’s straightforward to believe that the film is, in reality, “based on a real breakdown,” as an introductory on-screen textual content claims. Will spirals uncontrolled quickly after his mom begins blowing up his cellphone, pleading with him to not believe his good-natured boyfriend Luke (Devon Graye). It’s fortunately laborious to inform if these messages are all actual or at the least partly imaginary. Will struggles to get numerous docs to take him critically and insists that, regardless of their check outcomes, there’s one thing very mistaken together with his arms. In time, Will begins seeing a person in a wolf costume (Scott Butler) that strongly resembles Frank the rabbit from “Donnie Darko.”
The plot of “Hypochondriac” might not advance past some extent, however, there are usually sufficient character-revealing particulars to maintain Will’s story shifting. Will’s annoyed makes an attempt at self-care are particularly compelling. He’s by no means actually alone, although it usually appears that approach, to the purpose of the place it’s straightforward to see why he assumes that the one option to really feel regular is to close off the skin world. Will has a pleasant relationship together with his co-worker Sasha (Yumarie Morales), who additionally suffers from panic assaults, and a stable sufficient relationship with Luke, who cooks for Will and infrequently asks after his well-being.
However, even Will’s work surroundings begin to look unsafe as soon as it turns clear that his passive-aggressive boss Blossom (Madeline Zima) doesn’t actually care about him. Luke additionally doesn’t appear to know the depth of Will’s discomfort, principally as a result of Will retaining him at arm’s size. And shortly sufficient, a conspiracy appears to kind behind the harmless smiles and calming gestures of physicians like Dr. Jansen (Peter Mensah), Dr. Rosenstein (Adam Busch), and Pressing Care clinician Chaz (Michael Cassidy).
“Hypochondriac” additionally options a variety of finely noticed and well-dramatized scenes that assist viewers to see Forte’s character as extra of a destabilizing presence than an out-and-out villain. I’m considering significantly a found-footage-type scare scene that features some ruthlessly edited nanny cam footage. May even has a few temporary, however revealing conversations together with his dad (Chris Doubek), whose matter-of-fact dickishness says quite a bit about Will’s nervousness. These scenes make Will’s self-sabotaging habits appear extra smart and credibly tragic.
Sadly, whereas key components of “Hypochondriac” vibrate with just-so authenticity, a variety of Will’s narrative additionally appears under-developed for the purpose of distraction. Heimann and his collaborators skillfully set up a genuinely creepy atmosphere, thanks partly to their efficient use of overlapping dissolves to characterize Will’s subjective panic. However, the film’s dreadful environment is rarely thick sufficient to be utterly absorbing.
Will’s core relationship with Luke resonates thanks to a couple of finely noticed gestures and dialogue exchanges, however, his reluctant bond with Butler’s wolfy buddy usually feels tacked on and perhaps even in addition to the purpose. A nightmare-like intercourse scene solely reveals a lot because it’s acquired extra to do with Butler’s disturbing presence than, say, Will’s physique, or his anxious, however horned-up associate.
Will’s Babadook-like buddy additionally generally distracts from his tortured relationship together with his mom. Forte’s efficiency is off-kilter sufficient to make you would like that “Hypochondriac” had been extra about Will’s mother and fewer about Butler’s painfully literal personification of Will’s trauma. Her stilted line supply brings a fittingly brittle high quality to her character that makes you wish to know what precisely occurred to Will’s mother, and why her presence nonetheless looms so giant over her grownup son’s life. A few of these questions are most likely finest left unanswered, although a number of are deserted without significant consideration since Will’s story is extra about his psychological instability than his love life, his traumatic previous, or his household. Nonetheless, whereas Heimann’s eager understanding of Will is genuinely spectacular, “Hypochondriac” is finally by no means so relentless or well-realized to be utterly plausible.