Zach Villa, Devon Graye, Paget Brewster, Marlene Forte, Madeline Zima, Yumarie Morales, Chris Doubek
By Chris Hammond
Mental Illness is something that is intertwining itself into recent horror films. They end up being closer to reality than anything Jason Voorhees or Freddy Kruger could scare up. These films are a genre unto themselves and also use many of the same scenarios. These include possession or some form of supernatural haunting.
In Hypochondriac, writer/director Addison Heimann bends rules and why not as this is his story to tell. The main character of Will (Zach Villa) is mentally ill, there are no questions about this. He suffers many of these issues during his youth. Growing up with a mentally ill mother (Marlene Forte) raises Will and who tries to kill him at one point.
The story jumps ahead 18 years after Will’s mother gets put into a mental hospital. Will is now working as a clay potter for a not-so-caring boss. This doesn’t dampen Will’s life though as the young outgoing man is well adjusted. He has a boyfriend and seems happy despite his past traumas. Things are not always what they seem though. Unfortunately, behind that happy demeanour is a mask of a dark past aching to reemerge. Will is desperate to keep this hidden from everyone in his life.
Unfortunately, his bipolar mother starts to reach out after ten years of silence. He receives a box from her one day on his doorstep. The box has old DVD cases and papers in it. There is also an audio tape recording from his mother, which he does listen to.
Old wounds start to fester and he begins to exhibit inexpiable symptoms. These symptoms spiral Will into an obsession determined to solve this mystery of his own.
Director Addison Heimann captures what it is like to have a mental breakdown. This story is based on his own struggles throughout his life with mental illness. He does so using a vast array of emotions and great visuals that at the time might not make sense as breakdowns don’t have to. These along with the superb acting from Zach Villa make the movie a horror treat. Villa does a great job of conveying the torturous turns mental illness can take on someone and the people around them.
The name of the film comes from the countless visits to the doctors to discover what is wrong with Will. His descent into illness is very believable and may connect with viewers. He wants help, but for what he’s not sure. Can anyone understand what he’s going through if he can’t understand it himself?
He tries to connect with his father (Chris Doubek), but it’s not easy as his dad is the polar opposite of him. In fact, it seems the years of his mother’s illness have taken a toll on him also. There is very little emotion or understanding from this man as he can’t relate or doesn’t believe his son.
Will’s boyfriend Luke (Devon Graye) on discovering the torment that will is put through as a child tries to comfort him. But as Will’s illness grows Luke is having a hard time comprehending it. There’s a giant strain on the relationship because of this and it goes from bad to worse.
Addison Heimann creates a great dramatic horror film. Although it falls under the horror genre it could easily place among other genres. Living with mental illness isn’t something that can be cured overnight. Will questions his sanity and what is real and fiction.
This is a perfect way to spotlight mental illness and how it affects everyone that people know. This is a story of what one person’s journey is like through abuse and mental health issues. At times it isn’t pretty and things don’t always turn out for the best.
There’s isolation, and desperation as symptoms get worse. There’s a horrible social stigma that comes with these sort of illnesses. Zach Villa is phenomenal and bares his soul (and other body parts) in the film. His portrayal of Will scratch at the heartstrings and viewers will definitely root for him.
Hypochondriac also treads different ground by adding a queer component to the story line. This is something unique which also is a reason to check it out. Be prepared for a ride into darkness and confusion with this interesting piece of art.
In theatres July 29, 2022
On-Demand and Digital August 4, 2022
Run Time: 96 Minutes | Rating: Not Rated