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{Movie Review} Worry Disorients

February 8, 2023

Worry hits the screen moving at Mach ten. We get about a paragraph of Sam’s (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) story before we’re catapulted into the action. While Worry has some problems, NO ONE is going to claim it’s boring. The action is cohesive and the pacing anxiety-inducing as the audience tries to keep up with the bizarre new world Sam encounters in the hospital. Writer/director Michael Winnick delivers a flawed but interesting surreal landscape that offsets his relatively weak character development with a funky, terrifying style that drew me in.

Most of the time, the bones of the story are pretty basic. After a near-fatal car accident, Sam (Meyers) awakens to find he’s trapped in an abandoned hospital by mysterious and sinister forces who have no intention of letting him go. He must overcome his past mistakes to leave the hospital. But hey, nobody likes to deal with our past, especially if we’ve sucked in the day.

From the start, Sam is attacked by patients in the hospital. Each new monster feels torn from a Silent Hill game based in a rundown hospital. The small cast also adds to the vibe of the video game as Sam has to help and get help from a variety of companions he encounters along the way as he tries to get to the lobby. As new monsters are introduced and old ones return, the big bads seem to get more and more bloodthirsty and crazed as the film progresses. There is a bit of lip service to this rise in violence, but it need not be. Once the movie starts to look like a video game, the bosses get harder. It’s an offer.

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The new fright in each room, combined with fascinating aesthetic choices, gives Worry a cartoon vibe too. Each new room a new comic cell to examine for clues. The only thing missing would be added graphics like BANG!!! or POW!!!

Courtesy of Paramount

The journey itself could get a little tedious if each level and each monster didn’t have so many interesting aesthetic choices. Perhaps leading the charge on the monster front would be a trio of plastic surgery victims who could double as early-stage cenobites. If the monsters weren’t scary, the movie wouldn’t work at all. However, Winnick strives to make all monsters feel menacing.

The main characters almost fall victim to these monsters on several occasions, but they mostly fall victim to the film’s brutal pacing that drives the action forward. We have very little time to get to know any of them. This is especially true for Sam. We get backstory through flashbacks to his relationship with his wife and his infidelity, which seems to influence every aspect of their current relationship. At best, Sam becomes an audience surrogate who seems equally surprised at where he’s ended up and what’s happening to him. The result of this choice leaves him with very little agency and even less development. While Meyers does a lot with the minimum given to him, Sam still only feels partially developed. The rest of the cast plays their roles admirably, especially Virgil (Garry Chalk). Virgil, whose name might imply, becomes one of Sam’s guides. He exudes a gentle, calm energy that gives him a golden retriever feel, which in a movie that feels like a darker version of Oz or the wonderland is a nice relief.

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The premise of Worry is interesting enough to attract the public. The neon-infused color palette does enough to keep people engaged. In his heart, Worry uses a rather well-rehearsed biblical allegory of heaven and hell to tell us a story of personal redemption and terror. The film itself is nothing new but offers a variety of interesting scares, as well as a mystery that approximates an escape movie without the novelty of a real solution. Are you going up or down? This is the game to understand. It’s mostly a matter of elevation. The film’s climax is confusing and chilling as the characters recur, but this time as different characters in flashbacks.

I expected some Shyamalan-like clarification with twist. Winnick is not interested in this level of explanation but rather wants the audience to come up with an interpretation that suits them. If you’re ready to get to work, Worry might be just the kind of movie for you.

Tyler Unsell

Tyler has been the editor of Signal Horizon since its inception. He is also the director of Monsters 101 at Truman State University, a course that combines horror movie criticism with survival skills to help middle and high school students learn critical thinking. When he’s not watching, teaching, or thinking about horror, he’s the director of debate and forensics at a high school in Kansas City, Missouri.

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