There’s Nothing Sick About Enjoying Hypochondriac (2022)
First Non-Festival Release: July 29, 2022 (Limited Theatrical Release)
Director: Addison Heimann
Writer: Addison Heimann
Runtime: 97 Minutes
Starring: Zach Villa, Devon Graye, Marlene Forte
Where to Watch: Check out where to find it here
Gifted potter Will (Zach Villa) spends his days working at a swanky boutique in Los Angeles when his calm but fulfilling life is interrupted by intrusive reminders of his mother. Growing up, Will was subjected to her schizophrenic episodes that left deep impressions on his psyche. Thinking he had long moved past this, the revelation that his mother is out there trying to contact him shakes him to his core. Will refuses to let anyone in or even admit to what is happening with him. His boyfriend Luke (Devon Graye) attempts to console him but finds his efforts unsuccessful. Will must confront the demons of his past to thwart the demons threatening his present.
Trippy indie horror Hypochondriac explores the terrifying fear of inescapable mental illness and trauma.
Families can make or break people, and the story of Will and his family shows this to be true. Throughout his childhood, Will was tormented by the haunting specter of his mother’s mental illness, which is coded as schizophrenia. Throughout Hypochondriac, moments from Will’s upbringing where his mother acted erratically help understand his emotional state and his mild social isolation as an adult. His father’s absence and refusal to take Will’s feelings into account mixes together to form a tumultuous upbringing that never gives Will the things he truly needs to survive childhood and persist through challenges: consistent love and support.
Will’s journey is marked by his own refusal to let down his guard for others after he sees the signs that his mother has returned to his life. His connections are amiable but guarded, he stonewalls his boyfriend, and he cannot trust others for even the smallest things. As Will convinces himself that his neuroses are real and ignores the signs that his mental health is fading, he clings to the notion that his mother is the one that is orchestrating his downfall. Her sudden re-introduction to his life hits just as he is about to let his walls down for his boyfriend. Is it poor timing or a specific defense mechanism to prevent Will from getting close to someone who could hurt him like his mother did many years ago?
Zach Villa takes on the heavy lifting as the lead, carefully paying attention to all the nuances that make Will such a compelling character. Will is given a tender portrayal of a gay men wrestling with the complexities of his upbringing. Villa’s measured portrayal allows him to experience many emotions in what could otherwise be a rather one-note performance. Will’s journey from self-assured and snarky potter to terrified unemployed hermit is frightening because of how real it is because of Villa’s care of the character.
Of course, an indie horror film like Hypochondriac isn’t without its faults, but many are superficial at best. While visually cool at times, some of the special effects teeter on the edge of cheap and silly. The constant presence of mental illness is depicted as person wearing a wolf costume, so there are only so many ways to keep that fully grounded. A few throwaway lines and moments from supporting characters feel out of place or unnecessarily tonally different from the rest of the film. These moments are sporadic but worth mentioning in the overall film.
An intimate portrayal of mental illness, Hypochondriac asserts itself as a thoughtful and powerful statement on how family can change the trajectory of your life. Anchored by a strong lead performance and a delightfully compelling and nuanced script, Hypochondriac serves as an excellent entry in the subgenre of horrors devoted to mental health. Aside from some light technical issues, the film is a solid indie that warrants a watch from any horror fan and any member of the LGBT community wanted to support stories told by and for them. You don’t need to be unwell to appreciate the true greatness of horror gems like Hypochondriac.
Overall Score? 7/10