Hypochondriac (Fantasia) Review

Last Updated on August 5, 2022

PLOT: A young potter’s life devolves into chaos as he loses control of his body while being haunted by the physical manifestation of his childhood trauma.

REVIEW: While Hypochondriac is undoubtedly about the anxiety disorder of the same name, it’s also about relationships. The entire concept of a child living with a parent with a mental illness, only to live their life, fearing that the same affliction will spring up in them, is terrifying. And it’s made all the more prescient with the beautiful visuals and sound design.

Zach Villa delivers an absolutely stunning performance as Will, a young pottery sculptor whose life is starting to unravel as the illness that took his mother is seemingly coming for him. It will be a tough watch for anyone whose family has a history of mental illness. We see just how far his mother’s paranoia has gone, with her even trying to choke her young son out, fearing he’s part of “those out to get her.” Will and Luke’s relationship feels real, and their interactions don’t feel like the standard couple fare. They feel like they have a genuine connection, which makes what is happening to Will all the more poignant.

One of the aspects I found very disturbing was the multiple voicemails and recordings left by Will’s mother. They show an unhinged person that still has some wits about them. This feels much more frightening than someone who isn’t completely out of their mind. While Will’s mother is clearly suffering from a severe mental illness, his father is truly a despicable person. He’s fully aware of his actions and knows the weight his words hold. He uses them to pick away at his mentally fragile son. I found him to be one of the more frightening characters in Hypochondriac.

Paget Brewster, Madeline Zima, and Michael Cassidy pop up in supporting roles, and while they’re mostly in singular scenes, they still impress. Zima, in particular, always blows me away with how much she’s able to embody the “stuck up rich girl” archetype. Their characters drive home the “no one will listen to me” side of paranoia. One of them even tells him, “We’ll call if there’s something wrong…but we’re not gonna call you.”

Zach Villa may just be going crazy in Hypochondirac (2022) playing at the Fantasia Film Festival.

The wolf makes some very obvious comparisons to Frank the Rabbit from Donnie Darko, whose getup is remarkably similar. I loved that they represented Will’s mental illness with a physical being. It allows the filmmakers a little more freedom in filming something that’s so usually so internal. One thing that I feel has been very tired since Sherlock pushed the technique to the forefront is texts/phone being represented as on-screen graphics. While it works well in that series, it’s often poorly replicated. However, they use phones and recording devices in a very aesthetically pleasing way.

XYZ Films is becoming a powerhouse when it comes to independent horror. With films like this, Gatlopp, and Initiation, they’ve proven to be a formidable production house. It’s getting to the point that anytime I see their logo pop up; I expect something that’s high quality and interesting. This was my first foray into any of writer/director Addison Heimann’s work, and I consider myself impressed. He deals with a very difficult theme with gusto, but his real genius comes with his character work. Everyone introduced in this film feels like they’re living and breathing. All of the relationships feel real, and that’s no easy feat.

Hypochondriac is ultimately about the same mental illness taking a mother’s and son’s lives. While Schizophrenia may have been a more apt title, if anything, it just feels like a message of the hidden disease of mental illness. Propped up by some really great performances and fantastic visuals, this is an uncomfortable journey from start to finish. But fortunately, it’s one you’re going to want to take.

Hypochondriac is currently screening at Fantasia Film Fest.


Source: Arrow in the Head

About the Author

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Tyler Nichols is a horror fanatic who resides in Michigan and is always on the hunt for the next great film. When not scouring the internet for movie news, he is usually off watching something dark, writing nonsensical musings, or playing in some fantastical video game world. While horror takes up most of his time, he still makes time for films of all types, with a certain affinity for the strange and unusual. He’s also an expert on all things Comic Book Cinema. In addition to reviews and interviews here on JoBlo.com, Tyler also helps with JoBlo Horror Originals where he’s constantly trying to convince viewers to give lesser-known horror films a chance.