Beware the Sick Smile in the House of Darkness

It’s a trio of higher profile titles I checked out over the weekend, and two out of three were fun fun fun.

SICK (2022)

There was loads of excitement surrounding this new film co-written by Kevin Williamson of Scream fame. However, this is not a slasher. It’s a home invasion film that starts off fairly generic until it takes a detour.

Some people on both side of the COVID aisle might hate the film. A COVID satire that could be misread as taking itself seriously, it’s set in 2020 during the height of the epidemic, so expect to have some dark flashbacks to how we were living three years ago. Sure, we’ve come a long way since then, but what’s interesting is that back then when we were wearing masks and social distancing, we weren’t hearing much about people we personally knew actually having COVID. It wasn’t until people started going out again and mask mandates were dropped that more people we knew started getting it or dying from it, and chances are we got it ourselves. But…you know…masks didn’t work.

The film opens with a fantastic chase and kill scene that has classic Kevin Williamson written all over it. The difference is there’s something incredibly realistic about the way the sequence is crafted and executed.

Anyway, two girls decide to go to a family home in the woods to quarantine…and that’s mostly it for the cast of could-be victims. That’s why I say this is not a slasher, just a home invasion film. One of the girls is Gideon Adlon of The Craft: Legacy and Witch Hunt. She’s slowly building a scream queen resume, and she’s a great main girl in this film.

While this does feel predictable at first, once the action kicks in it is fast and furious, and the very Kevin Williamson twist that comes about halfway through the film re-energizes it completely. Sick proves to be a great cat and mouse suspense flick.

Just be warned…the COVID angle might really cause you to roll your eyes unless you appreciate the ways in which it’s applied here as a metaphor for distrust, self-centered behavior, self-preservation…and the Black Death standing right outside your door.


I think House of Darkness would work better as a 30-minute episode of Tales From The Crypt. Virtually the entire runtime is carried by a game of vocal cat and mouse. Ugh.

Justin Long drives Kate Bosworth home after meeting her at a bar. She invites him in and they have a lot of tension-filled, cold war conversation as they compete to be the one calling the shots when it comes to how the night will unfold.

Occasionally, Justin thinks he hears something or someone else in the house so that the audience will be manipulated into being on edge. About halfway through the movie, the writer seemed to realize how dull this script is, so a dream sequence is thrown in to give us momentary hope that Justin has finally landed in a scary situation.

Instead, he wakes up and the dialogue continues. Ghost stories become the topic of conversation until about five minutes before the end of the film, when Justin finally learns what Kate’s ulterior motive is. There are even some fairy tale themes thrown into the mix to remind us how most of them have very dark endings.

I would suggest you just watch Barbarian again.

SMILE (2022)

Smile has a pass-it-on curse plot like The Ring. While it’s a very mainstream horror film with some cheap jump scares (including one that scared the shit out of me), it also incorporates the idea that the mentally ill are treated like they have a contagious disease, as well as the notion that suicidal people keep their pain hidden behind a pasted-on smile.

The film also shares plot points with It Follows, but it opts not to exploit that relentless chase concept as much—in fact, several scenes of our main girl being pursued by a scary smiling person were cut from the movie and appear in the deleted scenes on the disc.

The basic premise is that a therapist at a hospital witnesses a patient kill herself after claiming that she’s being terrorized by a “person” that changes faces and always smiles while warning of terrible things to come. After this interaction, the therapist finds herself experiencing exactly what the patient described. As she tries to figure out what is happening to her with a full-fledged investigation like Naomi Watts in The Ring, everyone around her begins to believe she’s going insane.

Despite being 2 hours long (and despite cutting out some of those thrilling encounters with scary smiling people), the film definitely keeps the pace going. The highlight for me was a fantastic use of unnerving sound effects for ambience rather than a traditional music score; it was giving me flashbacks to visiting the hospital in the Silent Hill games.

There are several fantastically creepy sequences, those fun jump scares, and a freaky “final boss” battle at the end, but just be aware that this is not a body count movie.

About Daniel

I am the author of the horror anthologies CLOSET MONSTERS: ZOMBIED OUT AND TALES OF GOTHROTICA and HORNY DEVILS, and the horror novels COMBUSTION and NO PLACE FOR LITTLE ONES. I am also the founder of BOYS, BEARS & SCARES, a facebook page for gay male horror fans! Check it out and like it at
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