REVIEW: Cyst (FrightFest 2020)
I like to think I have a strong stomach when it comes to horror films. I can watch the goriest of films while eating and feel fine. However, the personal limits tend to be surgical procedures and gross-out films…so the next film on the Frightfest list was Cyst!
Set in 1961, Cyst follows a surgery practise that specializes in removing acne, spots and cysts. After trying to impress his investors with his ‘Get Gone’ machine, Dr Guy accidently creates a giant cyst monster that terrorizes the building and eats anyone that gets in its way.
Director Tyler Russell’s love for 1950’s/1960’s monster B-movies are very clear in Cyst. The acting is campy and over the top, which works for the crazy premise. George Hardy (Troll 2) is a stand out as the hilariously named Dr Guy, who is so desperate to get his fast cyst removal invention patented that he’ll increase his intern’s tiny cyst into something that takes up most of his back. Hardy embraces the role from the second the film starts, as a manic bully who takes pleasure in his work, and belittling others.
If there’s a comparison to make, then look towards 1986’s Little Shop of Horrors and Steve’s Martin’s dentist character for an idea of what Dr Guy is like! He takes pleasure in controlling and bullying his intern, Preston, and nurse Patricia (played by Eva Habermann), and Patricia is another character that deserves a spotlight. Unfairly treated, Patricia ends up taking charge as the monster is created and things take a turn for the gross. She starts the film as a fragile and shy woman, who is taught to obey and accept Dr Guy’s actions, to becoming a strong character that takes the crazy scenario on her shoulders. Her positive interactions with other characters in the film also highlights how nasty Dr Guy is.
After the film, Frightfest co-ordinator Paul McEvoy held a pre-recorded interview with Tyler Russell and asked how much of the film was practical effects. Russell responded saying that most of the film was practical effects, even showing us one of the puppets used to bring the monster to life. And, after watching Cyst, it’s obvious they were used to great effect. The effects are fantastic and gooey; next to 2006’s Slither, this is one of the grossest horror films I’ve seen. The puppetry work is incredible and I’m hoping a behind-the-scenes feature is included in its home release. Aside from the puppetry work, the amount of blood, puss and gore that the actors had to endure is evident onscreen. Be warned: a strong stomach is needed from the moment the film starts!
However, Cyst is also funny. While Dr Guy’s manic behaviour acts as comic relief, there’s a few continuing jokes: Dr Guy constantly getting his intern’s name wrong (which further demonstrates his bullying nature) and a continuing joke revolving around a patient who arrived two hours early for his appointment. Sometimes, these types of jokes grow stale once they’ve been repeated by the third time. However, Cyst proves to be an exception to this rule, as they actually get funnier as the film goes on. The idea of invention and the symbolism of that also brings in some humour. The 1950’s/60’s were a time of innovation and crazy ideas, so the idea of the ‘Get Gone’ machine and its advertising fit in seamlessly with the story and the era that it is set in.
However, if there was any criticism to be had with Cyst, it would be that the film doesn’t look as if it is set in that era. Aside from a couple of the costumes, the feel of the 60’s isn’t very present. If not for the title card at the start saying it is set in 1961, I would’ve guessed that it was set in modern times. This is especially the case since the surgical building looks like my local GP! Cyst would look better if a black and white filter had been layered over the top of the film.
Over all, Cyst is a fun and silly monster movie, honouring the monster movies of the 50s and 60s. It’s funny and well-acted, the highlights being George Hardy and Eva Habermann. However, it would look better with a black and white filter, as the film doesn’t capture the look of the 60’s in which it’s set. Don’t grab popcorn but do hope your stomach is strong and have a laugh with Cyst!
Editor’s Note: GREG SESTERO FROM THE ROOM IS IN THIS!!!