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HYPOCHONDRIAC: Tackling Trauma, Mental Health, & Fictitious Monsters

Writer and director Addison Heimann makes his directorial debut with a powerful film examining mental health and childhood trauma through the lens of horror. Starring Zach Villa, Hypochondriac is certainly a film that will keep you enthralled and thinking about it for a while after the credits roll.

After his mother suffered a violent breakdown when he was young, Will (Villa) has kept his family at a distance, even telling his boyfriend that his mother had passed away. But when she begins contacting Will out of the blue, he begins to deal with intense anxiety and psychological episodes that begin to take a physical toll on him.

As he spirals, his paranoia sets in as he struggles to understand reality while being haunted by a wolf-like creature. His fears mount further as he worries whether he’s suffering from a similar mental break as his mother.

Hypochondriac offers a trippy dose of psychological horror. It’s an artful metaphor for the struggles of mental health. I love when fictional horror represents real-world issues, and this film does just that. With haunting visuals — featuring a Donny Darko-inspired monster — it’s filled with strong symbolism throughout that’ll keep you guessing.

There are some fantastic technical elements to the film as well. The editing style, even some of the framing of scenes, are striking. There’s a uniqueness to it that pulls you in as a viewer. Heimann drives these tactics further in the third act as the tension that’s been building begins to amp up, and reality becomes more skewed.

I also appreciated seeing a queer character in a more complex role and story, especially in a genre film. With an incredible performance by Villa, this thoroughly nuanced film was a favorite of mine from this year’s festival.

See more SXSW reviews:

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