Inside the world of new queer horror movie, Hypochondriac.
In Hypochondriac, Will, a young Hispanic gay potter, is one gregarious guy. His boss is terrible, but he’s got a great boyfriend and a great job. Unfortunately, behind that veneer is a dark past of violence and mental illness that he is desperate to keep hidden. When his bipolar mother comes out of the woodwork after ten years of silence, he begins exhibiting unexplainable symptoms and spirals into an obsession, determined to solve this mystery of his own….
Hypochondriac is the directorial debut of Addison Heimann who also wrote the film. The movie is based on true events from Heimann’s personal life and struggles with mental illness. What results is an unflinching and terrifying descent into madness. It is a slow burn horror film that lulls you into a false sense of security before pulling the rug out from under you. By the final act the lines of reality are just as blurred for the viewer as they are for Will played brilliantly by Zach Villa.
The film explores how devastating unchecked mental illness can be not only on the person experiencing it but also on the people around them. Though some elements are exaggerated for effect, it’s not done in the style of exploitation films of the ’70s and ’80s. The point is made that with proper treatment one can learn to live and function with mental illness, which is an important distinction. That ‘proper treatment’ has little to do with the willingness of the patient either. Of course, that is necessary for a positive outcome, but the film raises the point that its also about the quality of care from medical professionals who too often rely on their preconceived notions when dealing with patients as opposed to really listening to them.
Hypochondriac is also, unapologetically, a queer horror film. So often horror films will throw in an un-sexualized queer character as an element of tokenism. This is beginning to change but its refreshing to see a horror film that places you in the perspective of a gay man in a relationship who shows affection and yes, has sex. Will’s relationship with his boyfriend Luke, played by out actor Devon Graye is central to the plot and a means by which we come to understand connect with Will. This is of course due to the fact that Addison Heimann himself is an out gay man. The fact that Will is Hispanic is another achievement in representation due to the sheer lack of Hispanic or Latinx led horror films (with 2022’s Scream as a notable exception for both queer and Latinx representation).
Queer Forty readers will also appreciate the film’s celebration of 90’s pop culture. You are sure to get a kick out of a very pronounced Donnie Darko homage in addition to some of the casting choices which includes Madeline Zima (The Nanny), Debra Wilson (MadTV) and Adam Busch (Buffy the Vampire Slayer).
Overall, Hypochondriac delivers a little skin, a little blood, but most importantly a gripping and terrifying story, all elements of good horror film. The movie showcases beautiful and at times startling imagery supported by a great cast of actors and a passionate director. If psychological slow burns are your thing, then add this to your must-see list immediately.
Hypochondriac from XYZ Films will be released in theaters July 29 followed by VOD and digital August 4.