Donnie Darko-esque ‘Hypochondriac’ is a Unsettling Dive into Mental Illness

Sommerleigh Pollonais, Horror Head Writer

Plot: A young potter’s life devolves into chaos as he loses the functions of his body while being haunted by the physical manifestation of his childhood trauma.

Review: Some horror movies are easy to categorise: slasher, supernatural and the like. Then there are those that aren’t just difficult to fit into a subgenre, they’re also difficult to explain. Hypochondriac is one of the latter and the type of movie I recommend seeing for yourself.

Harry Potter eat your heart out!

Strange enough, the film I would most compare this to would be 2001 Sci Fi psychological thriller Donnie Darko. It’s not that they have any story beats in common; quite the opposite. But both films keep you invested as the mystery unfolds, both have leads who seem to struggle with mental issues and both have visions of anthropomorphic animals (in this case a wolf instead of a rabbit).

As a young boy Will was abducted by his mom (Marlene Forte) from their home who later on tries to kill him to “save him”. He grows into a seemingly well-adjusted man who is kind to his friends, in a loving but new relationship with his boyfriend Luke (Devon Graye), and whose work as a potter brings him a sense of joy. That is until he hears from his Mother and everything around him begins to spiral out of control.

This dude is like bearly there. Get it? Bear-ly? I’ll see myself out

Zach Villa as Will is astoundingly good in this role. You may not recognise him instantly unless you’re an avid fan of American Horror Story where he played the infamous serial killer Richard Ramirez in the ninth season. To say more would be to spoil the film, but I will tell you the story here is a journey into mental illness and a look into the mind of someone who may or may not be struggling with it. Will thinks keeping his distance from his Mother will keep him safe, but considering the themes here we know that’s not how it works. And writer/director Addison Heimann’s depiction of these types of illness may be exaggerated but there’s still a sense of reality, and even respect given to it all, that never made the movie come off as totally ridiculous.

The horrific elements here aren’t the type that will have you jumping out of your seat (although they do throw in a few jump scares here and there) and the gore is not over done and works in the script’s favor. While I do think the movie is too long and could’ve benefited from a few cuts here and there, Heimann’s directing is smart and (in keeping with Will’s journey) keeps you off balance and unsure of what’s to come.

I see filming on the Altered Beast live action adaptation is coming along well

Another element that surprised me was how many well-known actors show up in minor roles here. Paget Brewster (Criminal Minds), Madeline Zima (Californication), Peter Mensah (Spartacus) and Debra Wilson (The Haunting of Bly Manor) are just a few of them. Each are on screen for one scene at most and many, if not all of them, have been in leading roles prior so it caught me off guard. But it never felt forced and I get the feeling it may be each actor’s way of contributing to the overall message of the movie.

Again, to say more would be to spoil things and while Hypochondriac isn’t the type of movie I can see mainstream audiences raving about the engaging lead played by Zach Villa, the pacing and the mystery of what exactly is happening to Will, as well as the strong directing by Heimann, is to be applauded. It may not be “horror” to some but for those who have had to their own personal battles with mental illness, this is the kind of story that will most definitely leave an impression.

Score: 6.5 out of 10

2755F829-2EEC-4A68-B6F7-F963F48C9D92 Sommerleigh of the House Pollonais. First of Her Name. Sushi Lover, Queen of Horror Movies, Comic Books and Binge Watching Netflix. Mother of two beautiful black cats named Vader and Kylo. I think eating Popcorn at the movies should be mandatory, PS4 makes the best games ever, and I’ll be talking about movies until the zombie apocalypse comes.

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