There are shades of Claire Denis’ charged eroticism in this Brazilian zombie film from debut director Alice Furtado, which she co-wrote with Leonardo Levis. A horny teenaged girl’s desires turn into a potent and dangerous brew when she falls head over heels in love with a haemophiliac boy who is then killed in a tragic accident. As Silvia mourns the loss of Artur she is taken over by a strange fever, with her family taking her to an island where she discovers ancient voodoo rituals.
From the outset Furtado strikes an intoxicating ambience and displays technical vigour with cross-cutting and bold musical choices. She plays remixed classical music over shots of Silvia admiring her skater boi’s prowess as he mounts and ollies the sidewalks and takes her on sexy motorbike rides. The early part of the film is a dreamy mix of Leos Carax’s Boy Meets Girl and Yannn Gonzalez’s You And The Night until it turns in to a sweaty, tropical nightmare. Furtado drenches her doomed lovers in oversaturated backgrounds to give a cinema du look ambience, all blue and pinks merging and poetic dialogue; the kind only teenagers speak in and find profound as they ponder over their angst. Adding to the 1980s styling are the Jean-Michel Basquiat style drawings that appear on locked phone-screens and bedroom walls.
The repetitive title is a nod to the three stages of love Silvia goes through, and alludes to how powerful and sometimes dangerous teenaged girls’ emotions can be. Silvia’s obsession with Artur leads her to give up on academic work and jeopardise the safety of those around her. As love and death fuse together through magic, the film loses some of its potency, and treads closer to Stephen King territory with walks through wild woods to ancient burial grounds recalling the look and themes of Pet Sematary. Dealing with Haitian history in these terms is oversimplified and jarring in the final third. Still, Furtado shows a great deal of promise as she delves through horror to deliver a new twist on the zombie flick.
Sick Sick Sick was seen and reviewed at Cannes Film Festival 2019.