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Hypochondriac
Image Courtesy of SXSW

Film

Hypochondriac Delivers Entrancing Visuals with Body Horror

Addison Heimann’s feature debut has candid conversations about mental health and trauma before doubling down on its delirious vibe.

SXSW 2022: Hypochondriac Review

With just the right blend of body and psychological horror, Hypochondriac is a hypnotic ride in the moment. Planting itself equally within conversations about mental health and trauma, Addison Heimann’s feature debut is a queer horror film that maintains a unique vibe throughout but fails to leave a lasting impression, even when some of its more audacious moments leave little room to look away. 

The lingering wound left by Will’s (Zach Villa) past is ripped open when his mother (Marlene Forte) suddenly begins reaching out to him after being sent to a mental hospital ten years ago after a breakdown. Diagnosed as bipolar, she is both paranoid and delusional, and Will soon finds himself questioning his own sanity as his mother starts prying into his life and his relationship with Luke (Devon Graye).

The relationship between Will and Luke is where the anxiety begins sprouting from as Will’s past that he has kept hidden for so long starts rearing its head. Hypochondriac isn’t just about someone losing their grip on reality; it’s also a reminder of the dangerous effects that stress can have on that grip. The way a psychosis can eat away at your daily routine, damaging relationships and accentuating the pain that may or may not actually exist. It’s only given more power when worry and past traumas reappear.

Hypochondriac
Image Courtesy of SXSW

The moments when Will is at his most vulnerable is when Heimann doubles down on getting weird. Will begins seeing visions of a wolf wherever he is and questions whether it’s real or a figment of his imagination. Those visions more often than not result in physical pain which is where Hypochondriac gleefully turns on the fountains of blood and ramps up the psychedelic visuals to put the audience in just as vulnerable and confused a state as its protagonist. Those moments always work, and the way they creep up on Will gives them extra potency as his mind sabotages him.

Though Hypochondriac can get a little silly, it’s not without its heartfelt moments. It wants to be a little quirky and Villa sells the balance between sincerity and absurdity as Will, but it is only the performances that really convince of the emotional beats. Often Hypochondriac just feels more enamored with the headtrip than the heartbeat. Which is fair since Will as a character also ends up more concerned about one over the other, and the vibe the film portrays is ultimately what holds things together.

At the heart of Hypochondriac is a candid conversation about opening up and finding help in those who love you. That feeling like you’re all alone only gets worse as everything is internalized; and in Will’s case, every action he makes seems like a cry for help but he refuses to accept the few hands outstretched to help. Heimann loses the thread at some point and leans heavier into psychological thriller territory and reveling in its body horror, but thanks to Villa’s performance, the anguish lingers.

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Written By

Chris is a graduate of Communications from Simon Fraser University and resides in Victoria, British Columbia. Given a pint, he will talk for days about action films, video games, and the works of John Carpenter.

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