Elwood P. Dowd asked his six-foot-tall white rabbit friends Harvey and Donnie Darko to predict doom through the eyes of a twisted rabbit named Frank.On The Haunting of Writer-Director Addison Heyman hypochondria (★★★☆☆), gay pottery maker Will (Zach Vera) visits Wolf, a glowing eye that emerges from his childhood trauma.
When Will was 12, his own mother tried to kill him. Hyman paints the scene – mom (Marlene Ford) alone in a rented cabin with young Will (Ian Inigo), she nearly strangled him – with facts Tragic news stories describing mothers killing their own children without blinking an eye.
Obviously, Will’s mom wasn’t evil, but she was mentally ill, keeping her in a mental hospital for several years. The film actually opens with a title that claims to be “based on a real breakdown,” which could be interpreted in a number of ways. Forte’s quiet and frantic portrayal is tense and sadly real, and certainly sounds real.
Fast-forward 18 years, and the film finds a grown-up Will spinning jars for a trendy ceramics shop and forging an eight-month hopeful relationship with the lovable, sensitive Luke (Devon Gray). Life isn’t perfect for this survivor, who clings to his secrets. But his mother is long gone, and he is in a safe, stable state of mind. We even see him mentoring friend and colleague Sasha (Yo Marie Morales) through one of her panic attacks.
So the thought of Will’s would-be-killer mom creeping back into his life—either from afar, or somewhere in Puerto Rico—was an understandable fear for Will. The movie itself, while effectively utilizing elements of horror movies, is not that scary in and of itself.
Despite the flashes of self-mutilation, the jumping fear of wolves, and the hallucination of Will spinning blood-soaked clay on his potter’s wheel, the horror here is psychological. Will’s general fear is not that he will lose his life, but that he may follow his mother down the path of losing his mind.
First, he started receiving paranoid voicemails from his mom, then packages containing “evidence” she compiled. He tried to ignore her message, thus casting doubt on Luke, who she insisted was “not to be trusted”. The harassing barrage triggers hallucinations, flashbacks, and intense stress.
His entire body began to collapse, and none of the doctors he consulted could explain it. His father (Chris Dubeck) is extremely aloof, maybe a little hostile, joking that he might have to make Will commit like his mother did. Meanwhile, the wolf growled his dark warning.
The story is filled with enough mystery and subtle interplay between the real and the imagined to maintain a relatively thin plot. Like Will, Vera’s performance is a bit underwhelming, but as the character’s pain escalates, he captures the physical and mental pain that pushes him to the brink.
As his paranoia grows, Will poses a danger to both himself and Luke, introducing a compelling domestic violence scene from Vera, especially Gray. They could also stage a steamy make-up sex scene — but even then there would be disturbing mistakes.
As Will confronts the possibility of his own mental breakdown, also gradually losing the ability to use his arms due to a real or imagined illness, the film paints a terrifying portrait of a man unable to control his mind. The sense of doom he carries is passed down from generation to generation, an heirloom he won’t inherit anytime soon.
But we cannot choose our parents, nor can we fully protect ourselves from the harm they may cause. Will can only resist his demons and hope that he is capable of withstanding whatever horrors they may cause, or pass on to him.
hypochondria Now in select theaters nationwide, it will be available on VOD and Digital starting Friday, August 4th.