FrightFest 2020: Cyst review – a horror movie you’ll need a stomach for

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There’s goo, there’s chaos, and there’s a whole lot of fun: here’s our review of the brand new horror film, Cyst.

Has everyone heard about this weird online thing where people post videos of themselves popping spots and then loads of people watch them? It’s the grossest. It’s not some weird sexual deviancy thing (although this is the internet, where there’s a pervert for everything) but rather people who take satisfaction in popping spots and like to watch other people pop them. There are, I’m told, some really good ones. I don’t understand the appeal and, even if I did, I doubt I would have the stomach to watch it.

What a time, then, to be a person who enjoys watching goo come out of lumps on the human body. Not only do you have your YouTube spot-poppers playlists, but now you have a horror movie about breaching the skin and spilling the contents of sizeable swollen cysts. Blech!

Dr Guy will not be denied. Not this time. When he last attempted to get a patent for his cyst-destroying ‘Get Gone’ machine things didn’t go exactly to plan, but this time he’s sure he’ll be able to prove that the machine works. Patricia has had enough of the mad doctor. Still bearing the scar from the last time the machine was tested, she hands in her notice. She’s done. Her last day does not pass without incident.

The patent appraisers arrive, but the revolution in cyst removal technology doesn’t succeed as Dr Guy might have hoped. In fact, it goes so badly wrong that the survivors soon find themselves locked in his clinic attempting to survive a gigantic rampaging cyst monster. Much gooey chaos ensues.

There’s something about even just the medical act of lancing a cyst, as features in the beginning of Tyler Russell’s Cyst, that makes this writer feel queasy. To base a gross out horror around the ‘urgh, no!’ feeling that can pop up when we see someone poking a swelling (easy now) is a horrible thing to do, and what a lot of fun Russell and his cast have doing it.

Co-writing the script with Andy Silverman, director Russell embraces the spirit of films Bryan Yuzna and super-indie studio Troma in his trashy B-movie splatterfest, with a few design choices that we took as nods to James Gunn’s Slither. The end result is a cartoonish and silly blood n’ guts horror that squeezes as much humour as it does puss from its brief runtime.

Now, this one is not a film burdened by any great ambition; it aims for the gutter and hits its target. You’ll likely be able to tell whether this is going to be something you enjoy before you press play.

That said, something that I really appreciate about Cyst is that it eschews some of the nastier content we see in modern B-movies, passing up on exploitation and lazy offensive jokes in favour of diving head first into the messy stuff.

The effects, while hardly polished, are typically physical and carry a homemade charm to them. The finished form of the cyst monster, for example, looks to have wandered straight off the set of a Power Rangers TV show. It’s delightfully silly. If you’re wondering how exactly a big Power Ranger sized cyst monster kills people, the answer is gloopily. This is the sort of film where you imagine that there were slip n’ falls on the set every 15 minutes owing to the presence of heroic quantities of gunge.

At its most effective when it’s prodding something that’s bulging with goo with something sharp, Cyst will have you averting your eyes and clenching your stomach muscles. It may not be big or clever, but having committed to operating at this level it pitches everything just about right. Whether that’s the cartoonish characters, the ever-spraying gunk or the short runtime (at less than an hour and ten it certainly doesn’t outstay its welcome).

The cast all appear to be in on the joke. The Room’s Greg Sestero and Troll 2's George Hardy serve as a statement of intent, although both prove themselves to be performers worthy of reputations above the films for which they’re best known. While there’s not really a weak link to be found, it’s lead Eva Habermann’s committed performance that really stands out.

For this writer, Cyst is far more fun than a film about bursting honking great puss deposits has any right to be. A trashy b-movie tribute with more gunge than Noel’s House Party and no time to stop for breath. If you’ve got a puerile sense of humour and a little over an hour to spare, this one is worth a look.


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