REASON: During the pandemic shutdown, two friends find safety by staying in a family house by the lake. They soon realize that a masked killer has welcomed a deadly night of stalking and slashing.
REVIEW: Kevin Williamson has been a respected name in horror for years. The effect that his collaboration with the legendary Wes Craven in Scream franchise is remarkable. And now, Mr. Williamson has a new story to tell. In his latest, he has a “story by” credit as well as the role of producer; the man has a new scary story to tell. Only this time his terrifying story is particularly relevant. While we’ve certainly seen COVID-19 referenced in movies and TV lately, Ill takes place during the latest lockdown. Starring Jane Adams, Marc Menchaca, Gideon Adlon, Bethlehem Million and Dylan Sprayberry, the film delves directly into the madness we’ve all experienced. Except maybe with a little more slashing.
Miri (Million) and Parker (Adlon) are best friends. So much so that they decided to seek shelter during the initial pandemic shutdown. While Miri seems to be the logical one, Parker is a bit reckless with her actions. The young woman is even getting some attention from social media after attending a party and making out with a few strangers, with all of Instagram to see. Still, the two are not alone. Not only did a particularly troublesome boyfriend named DJ (Sprayberry) show up, but a deadly stranger took an interest in the current residents. Things get tense and gruesome as the killer taunts our heroes. The question is, will they survive the night? It’s worth the trip to find out.
Ill is a clever and satisfying horror film. I enjoyed the hell out of this gripping slasher. And while Williamson didn’t take credit for the screenplay—that credit goes to Katelyn Crabb—this feature certainly carries his genre DNA. From the shockingly relatable early scenes that set the scene to the chaotic relationship between Miri and Parker, there’s a lot to enjoy here. And like any good mystery slasher, I’ll avoid going into detail about the rest of the talent involved. If anything, my biggest fear is during the fast pace of the film. I was nervous about how satisfying the final act would be. Fortunately, it left me satisfied and impressed.
Directed by John Hyams, it looks like Williamson found a solid name to bring this one to life. It starts with the early sequences that are sad reminders of two years ago; the tension builds quickly. While you won’t find a significant body count, there is enough to satisfy a slasher fan’s desires. And given that much of the film relies on suspense, it’s impressive how Hyams manages to keep things interesting. One particular kill might be one of the most clever and gruesome things I’ve seen in a slasher film in a while. The way the moment unfolds is brilliant. While a quick burst of CG dampens the fun of it a bit, it’s still great.
Another of the film’s charms is the impressive cast. The movie works wonders because of the engaging performances of the stars. Gideon Adlon’s Parker is not necessarily a good person here. Still, the actress manages to bring a balance to her work. Bethlehem Million is also great. The two play off each other and it’s easy to believe in their friendship. Dylan Sprayberry fits the situation and brings energy to the DJ. Maybe it’s the inclusion of a slightly topical plot, but I found myself caring more about them as they try to face the mysterious psychopath.
The satisfying slasher film is ripe with suspense and it presents a fascinating final sequence. John Hyams has given us a feature that puts the foot on the gas and rarely takes off. If you’re a fan of Williamson’s work, you’ll feel his imprint in this slim horror mystery. And as for that ending, I’m more than curious how others will react. For me, completing a story like this was as good as it gets. The cast shines and it’s great to see a character like Parker. She doesn’t get to be that friendly early on, but as the movie goes on, she quickly grows on you. And don’t worry about the divisive nature you might expect from a movie about COVID-19. Instead of preaching, this horror film cares about scares and thrills.
If you happen to be in the Los Angeles area, you might want to get an early look at this fine slasher fun at Beyond Party. Ill is sick. In the funnest way.