Movie Review: Paranoid, hallucinating, self-harming, but sure, he’s a “Hypochondriac”

Properly paranoid and just trippy enough to be triggering, Addison Heimann’s “Hypochondriac” takes us into one tortured life and the troubled past that led to it.

A prologue sets up the trauma to follow. Young Will, whom his manic, prattling Puerto Rican mother (Marlene Forte) calls “Lindo” (pretty boy) creates what he figures will be a happy Halloween memory in a wolf costume. But the sounds of shattered glass signals another of his mother’s episodes.

If “Pack a bag, we’re LEAVING” isn’t answered quickly enough, she’ll fly off the handle. “You’re in COLLUSION with him!” And that leads, on one memorable night, to her hands wrapped around his neck, coming so close to strangling Will to death that he has to wear a turtleneck to Little League practice.

Eighteen years later, Will (Zach Villa) outwardly seems over and done with that traumatic childhood. He’s a happy potter, dancing his clays to the kiln for baking, in a relationship and high on life. And occasionally mushrooms.

But a colleague’s panic attack shows Will’s other skill, one hard won in his difficult childhood. He knows how to talk people out of their weeping, fetal crouch.

And Mother’s Day is coming, which means his other half Luke (Devon Graye) wants them to visit his mother. Whatever Luke doesn’t know about Will’s past, his “my mother’s been dead most of my life” hints he might not be up for that. But sure, it’s a brunch date it is.

Will hasn’t told Luke much, which makes the paranoid text messages from “Mom” and hallucinations he starts to have other things he can’t broach with his new love. Mom is as manic as ever.

“You must become a private INVESTIGATOR,” she insists, at one point.

But dizzy spells, headaches, arm injuries and the like while working around a white hot kiln? It’s time to see a doctor.

Writer-director Heimann’s debut feature does well at keeping Will’s uncertainty about what ails him in doubt. Could this be all in his head? “Just stress,” his frat-bro doctor insists. But, all these symptoms…what about ALS, schizophrenia?

“Duuuude,” frat-bro doc advises, “don’t GOOGLE.”

But as visions of wolves and his nutty mother persist and self-harm becomes a real concern, if Will isn’t googling, at least he’s getting second and third opinions. So are we.

“Hypochondriac” makes a broad spectrum of the medical profession a running gag. Every doctor, specialist and shrink has the same sassy Pomeranian poster on the wall, the wone with “Be bright like glitter and bubbly like champagne!”

That contrasts with the many manifestations of Will’s mother’s illness — nonsensical packages, insane voice mails, threats, pleas. His disinterested, nonchalant father (Chris Doubek) even cracks a faint smile when he suggests the son is turning out just like the kid’s mother.

It doesn’t come together nearly as neatly as you’d like. But “Hypochondriac” manages a few chills and some eyes-averting gore thanks to Will’s memories of what happened and how close he is to repeating the awful past he grew up in.

Rating: unrated, graphic violence, explicit sex, profanity

Cast: Zach Villa, Devon Graye, Marlene Forte, Yumarie Morales and Chris Doubek.

Credits: Scripted and directed by Addison Heimann. An XYZ release.

Running time: 1:37

About Roger Moore

Movie Critic, formerly with McClatchy-Tribune News Service, Orlando Sentinel, published in Spin Magazine, The World and now published here, Orlando Magazine, Autoweek Magazine
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