A queer horror film inspired by ‘Donnie Darko’

Zach Villa as Will in the horror/LGBTQ+ film HYPOCHONDRIAC, an XYZ Films release. Photo courtesy of XYZ Films

CHICAGO- Editor’s Note: This review was originally published as part of our 2022 SXSW Film Festival coverage on April 1, 2022. It was republished in light of the film’s theatrical and VOD debut.

The creation of art can double as an act of therapy. For filmmakers, that sometimes means opening wounds to audiences hungry for a drop of catharsis. Enter writer/director Addison Heimann’s first feature film, “Hypochondriac,” a dizzying and haunting account of the artist’s struggles with mental illness. (The film’s opening title card reads, “Based on an actual breakdown.”) As is often the case with first films, it’s far from a brilliant box-office hit, but Heimann makes up for a modest budget with a few performances. solid and atmospheric editing.

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About “Hypochondriac”: Horror-Infused “Donnie Darko”

Will (Zach Villa) is a young gay man haunted by the specter of his mother’s psychosis: as a child, he suffered from her delusional and sometimes violent impulses, until he finally cut off all contact with her. As an adult, he has a sweet new boyfriend (Devon Graye) and a job as an assistant at a boutique ceramics gallery. But soon enough, his mother creeps back into his life, leaving garbled, incoherent voicemails and dropping strange packages on her doorstep containing cryptic hints of a greater purpose for him.

Soon after, Will begins to experience a series of strange physical symptoms that one doctor after another cannot explain. (He even begins to have visions of a mysterious wolf-disguised figure in a creepy mask when he’s alone, looking, perhaps intentionally, a bit like Frank the Bunny from “Donnie Darko.”)

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(L-R) Devon Graye as Luke and Zach Villa as Will in the horror/LGBTQ+ film, HYPOCHONDRIAC, an XYZ Films release. Photo courtesy of XYZ Films.

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“Hypochondriac” is not a perfect movie. Very few are. However, the few cracks in the film’s gothic ceilings are a result of the low-budget nature of the film’s making, plus or minus a few creaky lines of dialogue here and there. Those concerns are offset by the intimate and intensely personal nature of the narrative.

Heimann convinces Villa to give a dynamic and wounded performance; together, the writer/director and the actor paint a portrait of the acute personal pain that mental illness can inflict on a normal life. “Hypochondriac” occasionally stumbles as we weave its message into the horrors, but it’s a promising debut. I’m curious to see what Heimann does next.

Grade B-

Not Rated. 96 minutes. Direction: Addison Heimann. presenting Zach Villa, Devon Graye, Madeline Zima, ymarie moralesmarlene strong, Paget Brewster. “Hypochondriac” is currently available in select theaters and digitally.

About the writer: Clint Worthington is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association. He is the founder and editor-in-chief of The Spool, and a senior writer at Consequence. He can find his other work on Vulture, Nerdist, RogerEbert.com and elsewhere.

Make it a double function with “The devil’s house”, free streaming on Tubi

The devil’s house (2009): The narrative economy in Ti West’s tribute to late ’70s and early ’80s horror movies is downright elegant, giving the film (and the audience) a chance to breathe between moments of unsettling violence. Its style is reminiscent of one of the classiest proto-slashers, the original “Black Christmas,” another movie that manages to be both quiet and powerful. “The House of the Devil” stars Jocelin Donahue as a college student who answers the wrong want ad, along with an early role for pre-fame Greta Gerwig as best friend with fantastic ’70s hair and a brutal death on screen. Rated R. 95 minutes. Address: you west. It also features: tom noonan, Maria Woronov.

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“The house of the devil” is broadcast free on Tubiget the app

How to watch “Hypochondriac”

“Hypochondriac” is available digitally and On Demand, as well as playing in select theaters.

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