Sickened is a micro-budget film ($12,000 according to IMDb) which was
created by writer/director Phil Herman, who also stars. If Hollywood is the
film industry's equivalent of Broadway; and Sundance-style indie films are
tantamount to Off-Broadway; it's not easy to come up with a theatrical
parallel for a film like this. One must go far beyond simply placing multiple
"offs" in an extended Broadway hyphenate. One must even go beyond dinner
theater and community theater. This is more like a garage band, or a bunch of
kids putting on a backyard show.
film's home page is on Angelfire, fer chrissakes. I didn't even know that
still existed. I thought that it had gone the way of Geocities and cattle
Not that there's anything wrong with all of that. These sorts of projects
possess a desirable characteristic that many slick Hollywood productions have lost -
they are driven by the love of personal expression on film, and not by money.
They do what they do because they like it. Therefore, micro-budget filmmakers have no need to make compromises to
satisfy investors or to mollify mainstream audiences. The auteurs do what they
want to do. Sometimes that kind of sincerity resonates with a wider audience,
and a Clerks is born, but most of the time the creators just keep pumping out
straight-to-vid projects for narrowly-targeted audiences.
We fans of screen nudity are one of the specially targeted demographics. If
we watch a Hollywood film, there is zero chance that we will see Jessica Alba
jogging stark naked, or doing nine separate nude scenes comprising more than
11 minutes of running time. Nor will we see Parker Posey doing that in a
Sundance film. But that's exactly what Nancy Feliciano does in Sickened. And
her fellow scream queen Debbie D chips in with another two minutes worth of
total frontal and rear nudity.
Are the actresses as young and stunning as the cast of a big Hollywood
franchise film? No. They look like the average women working at your local
supermarket. But they are stark naked. Take that, Hollywood and Sundance.
Don't misread what I've said and conclude that this is some kind of porn.
It is not. It's classic exploitation cinema, made
the way I remember it from the adult-only drive-ins in the late 60s and early
70s. Like those films, Sickened keeps one entertained between nude scenes with
a fairly interesting plot. There's a psychological mystery which is not
entirely obvious and there's a good bit of
misdirection. A woman wrestles with the residual trauma from a kidnapping
incident that happened decades ago. She escaped from her tormenter, but he has
never been found, and she wonders if he is the same person who has been
committing serial murders in her area since that time. She is obsessed with
the thought that the murderer must be looking for her, since she seems to be
the only victim who ever escaped. By means of multiple dreams-within-dreams
and delusions-within-delusions, the author keeps us guessing about the
explanation for the film's assorted surreal events, and the film ultimately
comes up with a solution which satisfactorily explains the preceding
Is the film slick? No. Some scenes look like they could have come from a
big film, but in general the film looks like it was shot with home video
equipment, and the inherent nature of the exploitation beast is that the plot
must grind too slowly because of the exploitation elements. A women jogging
stark naked for several minutes scores high on titillation, but halts the
film's forward momentum until the jog is over. There's a lot of that sort of
padding. If the script for Sickened were purchased by a network drama, it could run in 30 minutes, like
an old episode of The Twilight Zone. As an exploitation film, it takes the same sort of
30-minute script and pads it out to 60 minutes with the stuff you can't see on
Is that good? Depends on what you want, dude. If you want a story that
keeps pumping forward relentlessly, or if you want non-stop witty banter,
you can't also have several minutes of naked jogging and bathing. You have to
make a choice. If you want the naked jogging, you ain't gonna see it in the
latest adaptation of Jane Austen, and you ain't gonna see it in Iron Man 3.
Sickened is your go-to option.
Could you make a better movie than this, and also throw in a bunch of
jiggle from hotter women? Probably. But you couldn't do it for $12,000.
There's the genius of the micro-budget filmmakers!