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‘Hypochondriac’ Review: A Mother of All Breakdowns

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Within the psychological thriller “Hypochondriac,” life and all its horrors begin with Mother. When the film’s protagonist, Will (played as a baby by Ian Inigo), was young, his mother (Marlene Forte) suffered from psychosis. Her illness manifested in intense, violent spells. She would scream and hurt herself. One among Will’s most indelible memories is of his mother strangling him as a boy.

Eighteen years later, Will (Zach Villa) seems to have built a life that’s more peaceful than his childhood. He works as a ceramist, and he has a loving boyfriend, Luke (Devon Graye), who’s desirous to introduce Will to his family. But Will’s stability begins to crack when his estranged mother re-initiates contact. She sends him boxes of discarded DVD cases and scattered, disturbed voice messages warning him away from Luke. Will is haunted by fear that his mother will infect the remainder of his life, that he could change into like her. But his fear kicks into paranoia when he begins having visions of a monstrous wolf man, a distorted memory of a childhood costume.

The author and director, Addison Heimann, flirts with horror elements in portraying this story of a mother and son’s mania. Will’s wolfish spectre is executed with practical effects, dripping with blood and matted fur. The bloody consequences of distorted pondering are portrayed vividly, with surgical veracity. But when the film is sure-footed in relation to stylishly portraying boogeymen, it’s less certain in its portrait of people that experience symptoms of psychosis. The movie links cinematic thrill with real illness, tying movie monstrosity to specific psychiatric symptoms. Its armchair psychology makes for queasy viewing, a conflation of diagnosis and damnation.

Hypochondriac
Not rated. Running time: 1 hour 37 minutes. In theaters.

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