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‘Hypochondriac’ Review: A Wolf in L.A. Peep’s Clothing

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“Hypochondriac” informs viewers right away that it is “based on a real breakdown,” which certainly provides a new wrinkle on the now-wildly-overused “true story” proviso. Nonetheless, clarity of hindsight is not a major virtue in this adventurous first feature by writer-director Addison Heimann.

The offbeat indie drama features Zach Villa as a Los Angelean whose troubled past threatens to unravel his domestic partnership and his very sanity. The combination of gay protagonists, mental illness exploration, horror tropes, and surreal elements that gesture toward “Donnie Darko” make for an ambitious mix that holds attention, even if the uneven, somewhat muddled results are ultimately more effortful than insightful.

Following a festival tour that includes a midnight berth at SXSW and fitting slot in genre-focused Fantasia, XYZ Films will open the film in limited release on July 29, with digital and VOD release following Aug. 4.

A prologue reminiscent of 1960s/’70s post-“Psycho” chillers — in which Mom was frequently the agent of formative psychological scars — has young Lindo aka Will (Ian Inigo) at the mercy of his unstable mother (Marlene Forte). Beset by paranoid delusions, she drags him from their tony Souther California home to a motel room, where she nearly strangles him to death before regaining sense enough to commit herself to an asylum. He’s left to the care of his coldly distanced father (Chris Doubek).

Eighteen years later, Villa’s now 30-year-old Will is a potter, whatever lingering PTSD issues in sufficient control that he can calm a co-worker’s (Yumarie Morales) anxiety attack, as well as put up with their insufferable gallery-owner boss (Madeline Zima). He’s also got a good thing going with Luke (Devon Graye), the boyfriend of eight months that he’s living with. But the past rears its ugly head when Mom, incommunicado for a decade, begins deluging him with crackpot phone messages and bizarre packages he tries to ignore.

It cannot be coincidental that he soon begins experiencing dizzy spells, disturbing visions, workplace accidents, nausea and more. A line of consulted medical and psychiatric professionals, played in superciliously off-kilter fashion by numerous familiar faces (including Paget Brewster and Adam Busch), assure him it’s nothing to worry about. Yet things get worse, particularly once he makes the baffling decision to take some psychedelic mushrooms Ma had thoughtfully mailed.

That bad trip revives the long-dormant personal specter of a man-wolf with glowing eyes that terrorizes him, even as it becomes obvious it’s no “real” supernatural menace but a figment of his tormented subconscious. Such hallucinations rapidly endanger Will’s job, relationship and health, as well as (possibly) those around him.

“Hypochondriac” — a title that seems somewhat irrelevant, outside the sequences in which various doctors and shrinks belittle our hero’s symptoms — has a complicated agenda only partly articulated in Heimann’s script, while maybe a bit over-articulated in his very busy direction. Visual tactics here include a 360-degree camera pan, superimpositions, on-screen text graphics, heightened color, blurred, distorted and Rorschach-like mirrored images, et al. The intent is to evoke a dislocating, nightmarish mood. Too often, though, it feels more like a frenetic grab-bag of sampled techniques.

It doesn’t help, either, that the filmmaking is overly showy even before Will loses his grip: He’s introduced as an adult in an annoying music-video-type scene of dancing in the pottery studio, followed by an excuse for improv rap and beatboxing. Villa (who played Richard Ramirez on “American Horror Story”) is duly ingratiating. But the seriousness of the film’s take on mental illness would have greatly benefited from his being on a shorter leash when it comes to inventing cute actorly bits of business, mostly in scenes with the sympathetic Graye. When he’s not being puppyish, he’s running the gamut of hysteria. So often going over the top for impact, very few moments here are as potent as one long static shot in which the two male leads have a painfully honest breakup conversation.

Indeed, for all the sound and fury expended on illustrating Will’s mental disarray, we never get much of a diagnostic grip on it. Subsidiary figures are mostly caricatured, providing even less terra firma from which to understand his plight. When the film ends with a sense of acceptance and at least partial recovery, there’s more sense of having been on “a ride” than certainty of just what he’s accepted, or is semi-recovered from. Given that “Hypochondriac” is primarily an expressionistic portrait of mental ill-health rather than a genre film (despite all flirting with horror and thriller elements), that lack is a significant flaw.

Nevertheless, its style and subject matter are bold-enough choices to impress, especially within in the oft-formulaic context of current LGBTQ cinema. While not every idea here works, a resourceful tech and design package led by Dustin Supencheck’s widescreen cinematography puts its best foot forward in service of Heimann’s vision.



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Prey Makes 1 Arnold Schwarzenegger Predator Trick Even Better

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Hulu’s Prey takes what made Predator successful and puts a new spin on the formula, including a clever update on one of Dutch’s (Arnold Schwarzenegger) tricks from the original movie. Prey strips the series back down to its basics, pitting underdog survivors against the ultimate hunter. The Predator movies have strayed from what made the original movie special, instead trying to one-up each other by bringing in different Predator species, introducing the Alien Xenomorphs as rivals, and focusing on creating a cinematic universe rather than a cohesive singular film.

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Prey distances itself from the convoluted timeline of the Predator franchise by setting it 300 years in the past in the Northern Great Plains, with the main characters being First Nation Comanche members played by Native American actors. Another major change of pace in Prey compared to the other Predator movies is that Prey‘s protagonist Naru (Amber Midthunder) is female. Even with these changes, major aspects of the Predator franchise are still intact, and many plot developments and Easter eggs connect this prequel canonically to the other movies.


One of Dutch’s best tricks in the original Predator was covering himself in mud to lower his body temperature and avoid detection from the Predator, and there is a similar scene in Prey that uses the image of a mud-covered protagonist in a new way. Early on her journey, Naru falls into a bog and is almost swallowed whole by mud, but she uses her new “leashed” hatchet invention to rescue herself. Naru emerges from the bog covered in mud, and instead of being predictable by having the Predator show up and teach Naru about Dutch’s famous mud trick, she instead uses the bog later to trap and defeat the Predator. She does discover lowering her body temperature makes her invisible to the Predator, but it’s because she uses the orange tutsia flower established earlier in the movie.


Prey’s Best Easter Eggs All Service Naru’s Story

The clever allusion to Dutch’s mud trick from the original Predator is not the only reference to the Predator franchise that Prey uses to enhance its plot. The famous line “If it bleeds, we can kill it” is said by Naru’s brother Taabe (Dakota Beavers), and it isn’t used as a throwaway reference to Dutch’s line from the original. Naru spends the entire film trying to prove herself as a hunter, and Taabe is shown to be supportive but skeptical of her abilities, so reciting this line to her helps her evolve as a hunter. She gains the confidence to outwit the Predator at the end of the film because she knows it can be hunted and killed. The reference to Predator 2 at the end of the movie also furthers Naru’s story. The flintlock pistol she gets from the French fur trappers is the same pistol that was given to Lieutenant Mike Harrigan (Danny Glover) in Predator 2, which, along with the cave painting teaser during the end credits, suggests that this is not the last time Naru will have to face a Predator.


Prey takes elements from the Predator movies which came before it, but it never feels like a retread. Instead, it uses the knowledge of the previous movies to further the story of Naru becoming the hunter she always wanted to be. While it connects to the other movies in the franchise with direct references, Prey is a successfully unique Predator movie with a different cast and setting from the rest of the franchise, and it uses the other movies as a jumping-off point for a new take on a familiar property.

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‘John Wick: Chapter 4’ Will Feature More Mythology and More Ninjas, Director Chad Stahelski Teases

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While “John Wick: Chapter 4” is reportedly the longest “John Wick” film yet, director Chad Stahelski ensures that the newest installment will use that extra runtime wisely.

“I love mythology,” Stahelski told Variety at the red carpet for “Day Shift” on Wednesday night. “I love a good myth. I don’t really believe — at least for the ‘John Wick’ movies — in a three-act structure. I believe in storytelling and leaving it. You know, we’ve always seen John Wick as Odysseus. So we take the time we need to tell the story. As long as we don’t fall asleep watching it, we keep it going. But I guess there is a bathroom limit.”

“John Wick: Chapter 4” finds Keanu Reeves back in the title role as the beloved head-smashing gun-fu action hero. While plot details for the fourth installment remain largely under wraps, an action-packed teaser that debuted at Comic-Con saw the title character once again brutalizing opponents with everything from handguns to nunchucks. Now, it seems that Stahelski is teasing that the fourth film will venture more into the mythology behind the Continental and the expansive world of assassins.

The last film in the franchise, “John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum,” saw a wide array of wild action set pieces, from ninjas on motorcycles to a fight in New York City horse stables. So what do you do to up the ante from ninjas on motorcycles?

“Ninjas in cars, I guess,” Stahelski said. “I don’t know! It’s always ninjas, man.”

Currently, Stahelski serves as producer on the Netflix original film “Day Shift.” The vampire-hunting movie, starring Jamie Foxx, Dave Franco and Snoop Dogg, is helmed by first-time director J.J. Perry. Stahelski and Perry met 33 years ago doing stunts together on “The King of the Kickboxers.” With “Day Shift,” Perry has become the newest member of their friend group to venture out of stunts and into feature film directing.

“That’s the thing about our circle of friends,” Stahelski said. “Everybody’s their own guy. Everybody helps everybody. The hierarchy is circular. Look, we came up with one of the best generations that have been in stunts for a long time. So for a bunch of us that used to get hit by cars for a living here on the red carpet, it’s pretty awesome.”

“Day Shift” premieres Friday on Netflix. “John Wick: Chapter 4” hits theaters on May 23, 2023.



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Jamie Foxx Talks Franchise Plans For New Netflix Vampire Movie Day Shift

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Warning: SPOILERS lie ahead for Day Shift.

With the first film now streaming, Jamie Foxx is opening up about franchise plans for his new Netflix vampire movie Day Shift. Foxx stars in the action-horror-comedy as Bud Jablonski, a blue-collar father in the San Fernando Valley who moonlights as a pool cleaner while actually working as a vampire hunter. When Bud learns that his estranged wife is planning to move her and their daughter to Florida for financial reasons, he must put together as many vampire contracts together as he can over three days, inadvertently running afowl of a major threat in the area.

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Alongside Foxx, the ensemble cast for Day Shift includes Dave Franco, Natasha Liu Bordizzo, Karla Souza, Meagan Good, Steve Howey, Scott Adkins, Snoop Dogg, Peter Stormare and Eric Lange. J.J. Perry, well-known for his work as a stuntman and second-unit director on the likes of The Town and the first two John Wick movies, is making his feature directorial debut on the film with a script from Tyler Tice and Army of the Dead and John Wick vet Shay Hatten. A year after shooting in Los Angeles, Day Shift has hit Netflix to mixed-to-positive reviews from critics and strong reactions to audiences and it appears Netflix may not stop there.


While speaking exclusively with Screen Rant ahead of the film’s release, Jamie Foxx talked franchise plans for his new Netflix vampire movie Day Shift. The executive producer/star confirmed ideas are being thrown around to expand the property at the streaming platform, especially after positive test screenings to the film. See what Foxx shared below:

“We talked last night about it and we got some great ideas. It’s not always normal for Netflix to do part twos, they don’t always do it, but we feel like with this one, we got a great chance on how everybody’s responding to it already. They’re responding to the trailer, they’re responding in the screenings and things like that. And it’s fun, you know what I’m saying, so I think we’ll definitely try to make it happen and I think if they do, it’ll be even better.”

While Foxx’s comments may not be a direct confirmation of the streamer ordering more of the property, it does indicate he and Netflix are open to the idea of a possible Day Shift franchise. Given the film introduces a world akin to the John Wick franchise with a union-like organization connecting vampire hunters together and multiple references made to Bud’s past with said Union, the door is wide open for further exploration of its universe. Additionally, with the final scenes of the film confirming Snoop Dogg’s Big John having survived his seeming demise at the hands of a group of vampires and Franco’s Seth now established as Bud’s field partner, while also hiding his new vamp status from Union leader Ralph, the groundwork has been laid for a potential Day Shift sequel as well as spinoffs for Adkins and Howey’s Nazarian brothers.


Should Netflix move forward with a Day Shift franchise, it would be the streamer’s latest efforts to land their own movie franchise in competition with other studios. The platform is slowly building out its Army of the Dead series, having already released one film spinoff and gearing up for an anime prequel to release later this year followed by a direct sequel, while also partnering with Zack Snyder for his epic space opera Rebel Moon, which is similarly expected to launch a major cinematic universe, and just recently began moving forward on both a Gray Man sequel and spinoff and multiple Red Notice sequels. Only time will tell if audiences feel Foxx’s vampire movie deserves the same treatment with Day Shift now streaming on Netflix.


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