Hypochondriac Critic – Fantasia International Film Festival 2022

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Much of the horror lineup at the 26th Fantasia International Film Festival this year has been a visceral experience. Brute and investigator, Hypochondriac add to that. A painful watch on deep-seated family trauma that manifests in mental illness, Hypochondriac is a fever dream come true, pushing the boundaries of what the viewer thinks is real while ensuring that even hallucinations carry emotional weight. The film is directed and written by Addison Heimann and stars Zach Villa in the lead role of Will.

Living with a mentally ill relative, especially one who harms you (intentionally or not) is an experience you always carry with you. In Hypochondriac, Will’s (Zach Villa) mentally ill mother (Marlene Forte) tried to kill him when he was 12, which resulted in her being sent to a mental health facility. Picking up 18 years after the traumatic event, Will believes he has healed himself of all past trauma. He has a happy life with his boyfriend Luke (Devon Graye), a job he loves, and he even helps ground his colleague when she suffers a panic attack. It fits well, to say the least.

Then, packages from his mother begin to appear, containing disturbing and paranoid recorded messages. The ramblings and warnings become the soundtrack to his life as Will begins to see things and feel sick. Although they’ve seen various doctors (all of whom are funny cameos), they keep telling him he’s physically fine, just stressed. But the lack of response sends him into a spiral of anxiety as his mind continues to deteriorate, and his mother stands as the specter of a future he is hurtling towards and fighting against. Fleeing from one potential refuge to another for fear of hurting someone he loves, Will may not be able to escape the family demons.

The hypochondriacs the exploration of mental illness hits harder given the character’s Latinity. Latinos don’t talk about mental illnesses, we don’t ask for help, and because of the marginalization we already face, asking for help is a tough choice to make. For some of us, we grew up around mental illness and learned to spot it within ourselves. But instead of using this information as a way to ask for help, we see it as a ticking time bomb. This is perfectly captured by Will’s continued belief that something is wrong, the fear that he is right, and the ultimate realization that he has followed his mother’s path to ruin, even if it was the last thing. That he wanted.

Watching Hypochondriac is like stroking a raw nerve. Each act increases the tension and increases the uncertainty as Will tries to take control of his life and is ignored by everyone around him. With his spiraling life, I found myself increasingly uncomfortable. Moving in my seat, with a weight in the pit of my stomach that drives me deeper and makes me want everything to stop. I know what to look for in my own sanity because I know how it has manifested around me, but every symptom and every note of abnormality feels like a dam is about to break. burst and it’s been that way since I was diagnosed with an eating disorder over 15 years ago.

Addison Heimann captures the raw and terrifying reality of dealing with trauma from the people who should love you the most. Villa’s portrayal of Will is very emotional, terrifying, and real in a way that escapes you. Although some elements seem blurry, Hypochondriac is a beautifully moving and deeply dark exploration of mental illness, family trauma, and more.

Hypochondriac screened at the 2022 Fantasia International Film Festival.

Hypochondriac

8.5/10

TL; DR

Addison Heimann captures the raw and terrifying reality of dealing with trauma from the people who should love you the most. Villa’s portrayal of Will is very emotional, terrifying, and real in a way that escapes you. Although some elements seem blurry, Hypochondriac is a beautifully moving and deeply dark exploration of mental illness, family trauma, and more.

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