Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art

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PostPosted: Mon Aug 15, 2022 11:23 pm 
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"He sees the demon every day." A modern-day indie horror movie that's occult but mundane.

Wilson and Daphne Shaw (Evan Dumouchel, Libby Ewing) are brother and sister living in Brooklyn (depicted in all its grimy beauty) and not doing very well, but close. When Daphne is murdered, Wilson goes hunting for the killer with no luck. But Daphne comes back as, well, we don't know what, "Maybe part of the collective unconscious," she says, rejecting the idea of "ghost." Wilson must battle a demon. Is it the demon simply of these adult siblings' drug addiction? Anyway, the continued presence of Daphne with Wilson makes sense in When I Consume You, perhaps because what this horror film is most about is the way they remain each other's only strength. Walter Chaw in his enthusiastic review says the film's "depiction of the sibling relationship is intimate, empathetic, and authentic-feeling." He is touched in the early, pre-death, pre-demon section by the way Daphne hides that she's spitting blood in the bathroom because Wilson is having a rough time too, and by the way she later lovingly talks him through a panic attack.

Daphne has been involved with, or reading about, occult rites as well as having a copy of the Heart Sutra of Mahayana Buddhism. The police think her death was accidental and drug-related. That she was killed and that a stalker did it is Wilson's idea. Various mysterious figures appear on the street at night and the post-death Daphne helps Wilson deal with them. But when a maniacal cop called David Castille (MacLeod Andrews) appears and Wilson challenges him, he's on his own and gets a bad beating. The whole idea that he was going to train himself to be strong for the revenge killing seems far-fetched since Daphne tells us her brother always just curled up and took their parents' abuse.

The film's focus on a strong brother-sister relationship makes it interesting, as do the handsome images of remaining rough industrial streets of the now gentrified Greenpoint section of Brooklyn. The night streets are making no artificial effort to look scary and instead look harsh and beautiful. Except for a brief tidying up speech of the dead Daphne at the end, though, When I Consume You seems too uncertain about where it's going to be a good horror movie. Maybe the news from Daphne that Wilson, now trying to get straight in a 12-step program and continue his education, "still sees the demon every day" is too human and pedestrian to quite fit Chaw's description that Dephne is 'planning for her death and afterlife by pulling her brother into a pact with the Devil."

This winds up mainly feeling like the story of two siblings with a rough background having a hard time in New York and only one surviving. But Daphne comes back from the dead, the crazy cop has glowing eyes like Michael Jackson in "Thriller," and elements of the Gothic and supernatural are woven throughout. It's said that Perry Blackshear made a tremendous impact on the indie horror scene with his 2015 feature debut They Look Like People, and this third film, a fresh new example of where the indie horror world is trending now, is distinctive and avoids genre clichés.

When I Consume You, 92 mins., debuted at Montreal (Fantasia) Aug. 18, 2021 and showed later at Screamfest (LA) and Panicfest (MO), and it releases on the internet (VOD) in the US, Canada, UK, Ireland, Australia and New Zealand from 1091 Pictures Aug. 16, 2022.

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