The Sickhouse (March 19/08)
While The Sickhouse does boast a relatively promising opening half hour, there's little doubt that the film slowly-but-surely morphs into a dull and downright interminable piece of work - with Curtis Radclyffe's astoundingly misguided directorial choices surely playing a key role in the movie's ultimate downfall.
Gina Philips stars as Anna, a young archaeologist whose latest case involves a 17th-century hospital in which a notorious "plague" doctor once toiled. After learning that said hospital is due to be razed the next day, Anna sneaks into the joint determined to discover an important artifact that will allow her to prevent the building's destruction. Meanwhile, in a twist straight out of Lamberto Bava's Demons, four hooligans (including Alex Hassell's Nick and Kellie Shirley's Joolz) out for a joyride are forced to take refuge within the establishment's creaky walls following a car accident. The film subsequently revolves around the quintet's efforts at escaping from the haunted hospital, as Anna comes to the realization that their fates are inextricably tied to those of five children who died centuries ago.
Buoyed by Philips' expectedly strong performance, The Sickhouse is initially a fair bit better than one might've anticipated - as screenwriter Romla Walker infuses the early part of the proceedings with a hackneyed yet intriguing sensibility that undeniably does hold one's interest for a while. Radclyffe's increasingly headache-inducing visuals - exacerbated by the shaky camerawork, relentless strobe effects, and lightning-fast editing style - proves instrumental in consistently taking the viewer out of the admittedly thin storyline, however, and there does reach a point at which it becomes utterly impossible to actually care about any of this.
That the movie eventually devolves into one of those silly, paranoia-laden thrillers where everybody mistrusts everybody doesn't help matters, nor does the inclusion of a baffling, flat-out nonsensical finale that poses more questions than it answers. The presence of a few appreciatively brutal kills notwithstanding, The Sickhouse is ultimately as ineffective as the majority of its straight-to-DVD horror brethren.