Will (Zach Villa) is an average kind of guy, working as a potter (which allows for a twisted take on that Ghost moment) and enjoying life with his partner Luke (Devon Graye). Except he was abused and almost killed by his mentally ill mother (Marlene Forte) and now the trauma is coming back to literally haunt him. His mom is leaving messages on his phone telling him not to trust Luke, he’s envisaging anthropomorphic wolves everywhere, and he’s convinced he’s got a physical ailment. The doctors, however, believe it’s all in his mind. That doesn’t stop Will’s body from failing him as his mental health also spirals out of control as he relives the trauma at the hands of his mother.
Where some films claim to be based on true stories, Hypochondriac is apparently ‘based on a real breakdown’, and that feeling is conveyed perfectly, with astonishing frankness and disturbing accuracy. Writer/director Addison Heimann has crafted a film that while fantastical in places is the embodiment of a mental breakdown. The wolf motive manifests into a Donnie Darko-style element of Will’s fears that appears at inopportune times. He’s constantly told that stress can manifest in physical ailments as if knowing that would cure all. For all the intense visuals and the engrossing, disturbing subject matter, it’s the performances that make Hypochondriac work so well. The struggles seem real and Zach Villa makes us want him to win against the demons that have plagued him from his troubled and violent upbringing. Mental illness - even that of his mother - isn’t demonised in an exploitative way, even when the film descends into full-blown horror movie territory.
While it’s not an easy watch, Hypochondriac is a superb film that takes no prisoners in its depiction of mental issues.Hypochondriac is available on digital in the US