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New Line Home Cinema presents
The Sickhouse (2007)

"Hello? Is anyone there?"
- Anna (Gina Philips)

Review By: Rich Rosell   
Published: April 14, 2008

Stars: Gina Philips
Other Stars: Alex Hassell, Kellie Shirley, Andrew Knott, Jack Bailey, Romla Walker, John Lebar
Director: Curtis Radclyffe

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (violence)
Run Time: 01h:30m:15s
Release Date: March 18, 2008
UPC: 794043113536
Genre: horror

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B- CC+B+ D

DVD Review

The Sickhouse looks and sounds an awful lot like a far too many other horror titles out there, the kind where fast camera cuts, whispery voices, and herky jerky movements are meant to instill scariness.

In this case, the setting is the underground remnants of a 17th century plague hospital/orphanage in modern day London, where perky archeologist Anna Ash (Gina Philips) is convinced the soon-to-be-destroyed dig site can reveal secrets about the myth of a cult of so-called "black priests" of yore. Who and what they were is shrouded in legend, but young Anna is convinced it had to do with killing kids, and she's not about to let the fear of catching a little black plague stop her from poking around in the middle of the night.

Naturally a film like this needs some expendables, in this case a quartet of druggie car thieves who stumble into the dig site at the stroke of midnight, which basically means they will get picked off one by one by the towering bird-beaked creep that is haunting the dark hallways. There's plenty of frantic running, things moving in and out of the shadows, and a load of flickering lights as Anna tries to decipher what's happening before it kills them all. One of the expendables is pregnant, and her fate is particularly nasty, as director Curtis Radclyffe shows that he is not afraid of doling out drippy gobs of unpleasant gore when necessary.

The problem is that even our heroine Anna is a little bland for us to really care all that much about, and since it is likely that the expendables will bite it well before her, all we the viewer can do is put little checkmarks next to characters as they meet some sort of grisly end. A glimmer of hope comes in the final act, when Radclyffe caps things off with an ending that is a step above the typical genre mishmash, and while perhaps not entirely original, it does offer more satisfaction than I was anticipating.

This is far from a great horror film, but it is one that wants desperately to look and sound like one. Radclyffe uses familiar stylized gimmicks to try and give this one the texture of something far more substantive, yet in the end it parades around characters that aren't all that engaging in a setting that holds unfilled promise.

Rating for Style: B-
Rating for Substance: C


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio2.35:1 - Widescreen1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyesno

Image Transfer Review: The feature is presented in both 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen and 1.33:1 fullframe, available as a choice before the film begins. While the fullframe seems just a waste of space, the widescreen option is, well, at least it's anamorphic widescreen. It's quite darkóno surprise given the gloomy localeóbut details sometimes get lost in the blackness. Colors are purposely desaturated, sometimes to the point of being monochromatic. A bit of smearing in spots, but no other major flaws.

Image Transfer Grade: C+


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: Two audio choices available, either 2.0 stereo or Dolby Digital 5.1 surround. Nice work on the 5.1 blend, offering up plenty of moody rear channel cues (disembodied voices, creaks, drips, etc.) that enhance the creepy. Voice quality is generally clear, though it is the movement and spatial sensation that is the real plus here.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+


Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 16 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish with remote access
6 Other Trailer(s) featuring Flight Of The Living Dead, Blade: House of Chthon, Amusement, Return To House On Haunted Hill, Appleseed: Ex Machina, The Brave One
Packaging: unmarked keepcase
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extras Review: No extras, save for a block of trailers (though none for the main feature). The disc is cut into 16 chapters, with optional subs in English or Spanish.

Extras Grade: D


Final Comments

Some creepy visuals didn't make me care for any of the characters at all, despite an ending that better than most B-grade horror titles. What's here is lots of wandering in dimly lit corridors, punctuated by bursts of shadowy menace.


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