‘Sick of Myself’ Review – Egotistical Body Horror That’s More Than Skin-Deep! [BHFF 22]

Horror

Sick of Myself presents a modern body horror story that’s rooted in limitless narcissism that’s as disturbing as it is hilarious.

“I love to live.”

The body horror sub-genre has become increasingly popular, especially since greater breakthroughs in prosthetics and practical effects now allow for unprecedented spectacles. It’s easier than ever to gross out an audience with disturbing visuals, but the best body horror movies are the ones that don’t just disgust viewers, but also attempt to say something about the very human nature that’s being perverted. Kristoffer Borgli’s Sick of Myself is Norwegian body horror that sadly feels especially relevant and consumed by modern anxieties. The need for attention and external validation turns into a self-destructive examination of what it means to really live. Sick of Myself is a must-see horror film that’s like if Phantom Thread and The Fly had a narcissistic baby, and then that baby proceeds to punch every other baby at the daycare in the face.

Sick of Myself initially looks like some quirky rom-com subversion. Signe (Kristine Kujath Thorp) and Thomas (Eirik Sæther) are both deeply egotistical individuals who thrive from being the center of attention. On paper, these two should be perfect for each other, but this desire to be in the spotlight results in a toxic dynamic, especially after Thomas finds unexpected acclaim as an artist. Signe finds herself pushed beyond the point of desperation and her means of validation grow increasingly unsustainable. Signe willingly consumes an illegal brand of black-market drugs that she knows will subject her to horrendous side effects. Signe’s narcissism is an addiction, just like anything else, and it’s difficult to watch the character descend deeper. Sick of Myself makes sure that Signe’s story remains unpredictable and an inventively gruesome self-fulfilling prophecy.

It cannot be stressed enough how entertaining it is to watch Signe and Thomas in the presence of any audience. Sick of Myself truly makes the viewer feel like a curious eavesdropper at a party who gets to relish their drama. Phantom Thread–another pitch-black comedy about toxic codependency–came to mind at several points during Sick of Myself, but so did the performative web of lies that come out of George and Martha during Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Audiences will leave Sick of Myself talking about the gruesome skin disease that envelops Signe, but it’s the believable human drama between these two that’s the movie’s real secret weapon. Kristine Kujath Thorp got a lot of acclaim for her performance in 2021’s bizarro coming-of-age film, Ninjababy, but she’s absolutely magnetic in Sick of Myself. So much of this film rests on her character’s skin-diseased shoulders and there’s never a dull moment in her performance.  

The tonal extremes in Sick of Myself are difficult to accomplish, but the film makes sure that none of its genuinely comedic moments ever come at the expense of its drama. The acerbic, dark comedy is a byproduct of Signe and Thomas’ narcissistic patterns and it’s a necessary ingredient that prevents the movie from turning into a hopelessly bleak exercise. Sick of Myself will make audiences laugh out loud, but also cry over the self-destructive path that Signe heads down. These contrasting moments are equally powerful and help reflect the complexity of Signe’s delusion. Fantasy sequences are consistently turned to throughout the movie, which can frequently be cheap ways to make easy jokes without having to dwell on the corresponding consequences. However, these moments work so well in Sick of Myself since they’re an extension of Signe’s narcissism. These cutaways become a helpful tool in understanding Signe’s toxic thought process. She’s a character who needs to escape from reality through reaffirming fantasies.

Sick of Myself isn’t a long movie at only 97 minutes, but it’s not the tightest piece of storytelling. Sick of Myself doesn’t exactly get overindulgent, but it is guilty of a certain level of repetition once Signe and Thomas’ one-upmanship reaches its apex. The same plot points essentially repeat, only growing more intense, as Signe doubles down on her undoing. This is perhaps meant to reflect the vicious circle of narcissism, but it’s still a valid criticism of the movie’s structure. There are times when it feels like Sick of Myself is an idea that’s better suited for a short film than a feature. That being said, Sick of Myself never drags or comes across as poorly paced. The committed performances from Eirik Sæther, but especially Kristine Kujath Thorp, are more than enough to anchor this picture. Right from the opening scene, it’s clear that this is meant to function as more of a harrowing character study and Thorp’s performance remains constantly captivating and nuanced until the movie’s end.

Sick of Myself is surreal, satirical, and heightened horror at its absolute best. The whole film is an ambitious tightrope walk with a main character who audiences should for all intents and purposes absolutely loathe. Instead, this becomes a morbidly fascinating look into a pained individual who some audiences are likely to not just empathize with, but also see shades of themselves in. Borgli exhibits extreme control over his craft and he’s definitely a name to continue to look out for in the future. Sick of Myself uses the broadest of tools to express its ideas, but the themes that it explores are universal. Just like its conflicted protagonist Signe, Sick of Myself is an unflinching indictment of an unchecked ego that’s impossible not to cringe at and yet begs to be seen.

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