From the film’s IMDB.com citation:
“A woman and her brother seek revenge against a mysterious stalker.”
I’m always cautious – always – about how I interpret stories involving ‘broken’ narrators, so I did take some extra steps in devouring When I Consume You for review. I don’t offer that statement as any kind of judgment on its characters or their creation for this particular story; it’s just that ‘broken’ people tend to tell stories in a fashion almost automatically that evokes my sympathy, and I do try as often as I can to stay as detached from these fictional people as is humanly possible.
That’s a tough sell with Consume, and I say that as a huge compliment: though Daphne Shaw (played by Libby Ewing) and Wilson Shaw (Evan Dumouchel) are fictitious, they’re presented so authentically you might believe you’ve somehow been transported into an independent drama (in lieu of a Horror/Fantasy). These are intended to be real-world types with (most decidedly) real-world issues; just because you may not identify with their particular struggles (pain, addiction, depression, etc.) doesn’t mean you won’t be affected by their plight. Remove all elements of the fantastic from this film, and writer/director Perry Blackshear’s overall effort still has legs. That, alone, is incredibly impressive.
The disconnect for me – as a viewer – comes in knowing that, inevitably, the fantastic does intrude on their already broken reality; and it does so a bit too sparingly for my tastes. While there are significant hints placed at narrative crossroads, there’s still an awful lot of mileage that’s given over to far more conventional dramatic material; and I can’t help but wonder if audiences might think they’ve stumbled back into the 1990’s when independent features were all about troubled souls … with very little emphasis (if any) on subjects like hunting down and dispensing of a soul eater.
Though indie Horror has certainly come a long way since its inception, Consume felt as though it was trying to push the story back into the realm of dire emotional conflict. Everyone’s emphasis here seemed to be structured around achieving acclaim for their humanity … but what draws watchers to films of this type is the inhuman. It’s the supernatural. It’s the spiritual. It’s all of those things that exist outside “authentic human moments,” and that ends up creating a lethargic pace to so much of these events. When we arrive at the scary bits, yes, they’re well done. Just don’t be expecting them to come along all that often.
In fact, I could argue that there are minor bits that even dismiss the Horror as ‘lesser’ than the dramatic: our film’s villainous soul eater David Castille (MacLeod Andrews) finally shows his face but he’s dressed damn near in the exact same costume as the fictional John Constantine (of the 2005 movie of the same name along with a TV show incarnation as well as being a character as part of The CW’s now-cancelled DC’s Legends Of Tomorrow). Trench coat. Tie. Slump shoulders. Smoking cigarette. All the same. In fact, for a moment I thought I might have stumbled – as he did – into the wrong picture!
I hate to sound like I’m nitpicking … but was there any consideration given to how similar an established and reasonably well-known genre character might look showing up in your drama-heavy independent feature? For me, it felt like Freddy Krueger had just walked onscreen into a moment of Terms Of Endearment (1983) and fully broke the dark, dreary mood of the piece. While anyone could easily dismiss that criticism by suggesting I watch too many films, I’d still argue the dress code alone leaned very heartily into the predictable, and maybe that complaint alone should’ve been a cause to reconsider.
Still – and because of that – I’d be a fool if I didn’t circle back to the performances here because – story weaknesses and pacing aside – Ewing and Dumouchel turn in solid work. Their brother/sister pairing smacks of an incredible level of authenticity – from sharing moments lying on their backs in the park staring up at the sky to time spent trying to both coach and counsel one another through life’s various ups and downs – and their collaboration gives Consume many of its best moments. Even when they’re making bad choices, it’s easy to cheer for them, because each of us knows someone whose walked in these shoes, swung for the fences, and had to pick themselves up after life kicked them in the teeth.
And, yes, for the record: both siblings do lose teeth in this picture.
When I Consume You (2021) was produced by Ahab And The Dark. The film is presently available for pre-order with a general release being scheduled for August 16th, 2022. As for the technical specifications? Well, it is an independent feature, which I’ve learned can be occasionally testing one’s patience at times. Generally speaking, the sights and sounds are good, though there are sequences shot in an awful lot of darkness and some captured in extreme close-up that I found a bit hard to identify in small spots. Also, some of the dialogue was a bit muddled in a few passages. Most of the time, these weren’t distractions, but they were minor annoyances to someone who likes to hear and see everything clearly (as I do).
… but using the backdrop of a broken family with broken relationships really isn’t all that new in the fields of Horror and Fantasy. It’s certainly been proven in reality and fiction that damaged people end up living in the stomping grounds for evil spirits, demons, and other various apparitions … so the ultimate question of whether or not When I Consume You truly offers up anything fresh, vibrant, and new is easy to answer. It’s a sound “no.” There are things to like in here – some solid performances, some great settings, along with some respectable production work (especially for low budget, independent filmmaking – yet this tale needed a sharper edit … unless it wanted to be a drama.
In the interests of fairness, I’m pleased to disclose that the fine folks at Yellow Veil Pictures provided me with complimentary streaming access to When I Consume You (2021) by request for the expressed purposes of completing this review; and their contribution to me in no way, shape, or form influenced my opinion of it.