August 9th, 2006


Masters of Horror: Sick Girl

Oy. Let me preface this by saying there's a good story hidden somewhere inside Sick Girl, directed and co-written by Lucky McKee. You've got the first tentative steps of a new relationship threatened by outside forces both human (the homophobic landlady's discrimination) and inhuman (the monster bug's ability to change the personality of whoever it bites), both of which can add up to a good allegory about the hurdles in any relationship. Unfortunately, McKee, whose movie May shows he's got great talent with character and emotion-based stories, decides to go the ick-and-giggles route instead.

Angela Bettis plays the insect-loving lesbian scientist Ida with a thick, distracting Bebe-Neuwirth-as-Lilith accent, which makes half her dialogue incomprehensible and the other half just plain annoying. We already know she's a nerd because she's an entomologist who keeps bugs as pets in her apartment and talks to them like they're children. We don't need the female equivalent of a Poindexter accent to drive the point home (nor the glasses, but that's a rant for a different time). Ida is the emotional core of the story, but the performance pushes us away.

It's always nice to see Misty Mundae (here credited as Erin Brown), and for the most part she holds her own admirably with the non-Skinemax acting crowd as Ida's new girlfriend named, distractingly, Misty. Some of her reaction shots are priceless. Call me crazy, but I think she could have a long career as a comedic actress. It's only when she's called upon to act angry or crazy that her limitations show. Unfortunately, that's the entire second half hour.

But it's the story itself that undoes Sick Girl most of all. The logic simply doesn't hold up. There's no way a hard, spiny bug the size of a kitten could hide in someone's pillow for days without being noticed. Similarly, the bug seems to have no problem going in and out of Ida's apartment whenever it wants, despite a locked door and windows routinely kept closed so her bug collection can't escape. And an endoskeletal organism transforming into an exoskeletal one is so impossible even the characters can't help commenting on it. Each plot development seemed like a bad choice as well, from the revelation of who sent the bug to Ida, and why, to Misty's two-second transformation into a shrieking bug-woman for no reason that could possibly be organic to the bug's nature.

While not as ludicrous as Chocolate or as tedious as Deer Woman, Sick Girl is a bottom of the barrel Masters of Horror episode, more like a leftover from Tales from the Darkside or Monsters than something a "master of horror" would produce. This makes two episodes I like and four I really, really don't. Suddenly the ratio isn't looking so good anymore.