When Perry Blackshear focuses his latest film on the trauma and bleakness of his character’s situation, When I Consume You excels as a psychological thriller. The sense of dread is rife throughout the film, it loses itself when it tries to do too much. Nevertheless, this film affects you with one hell of an emotional finale.
Siblings Daphne and Wilson Shaw practically raised one another. They’ve protected each other from everything life has thrown their way. But Daphne has an unsettling, dangerous stalker whom she can’t seem to shake and now threatens to destroy them both. They hunt for their tormentor through the shadowy streets of Brooklyn, honing their bodies and minds for a showdown.
Growing up in a dysfunctional family can cast the longest of shadows on your adulthood. You are marked by what you experienced; for some, you are never fully able to get out of that darkness and into the daylight to enjoy life for what it should be. This is the situation our siblings, played by the excellent Libby Ewing and Evan Dumouchel, are left in. They look on the cusp of getting out of that shadow, but as they know, their lives are not as easy as that.
From the outset, we see how bad a shape Daphne is in; the stronger of the two siblings, she decides to hide most of her troubles away from her brother. He is struggling far more than she is and appears to be at the very edge of his rope. So, she feeds him just enough information about her troubles to repel his concerns. Wilson is continually at the edge, and she will do anything to make sure he doesn’t teeter off it.
When I Consume You was a tiny production, and to get what we do from one so small is sensational. Blackshear knows how to work lo-fi while focusing all his attention on his cast. There is nothing flashy about the editing or cinematography, with all the on-screen work being the actors. However, he has some great ones here in Ewing, Dumouchel and MacLeod. Dumouchel and Ewing do their best to wreck you as the two broken siblings.
Daylight is not a known quantity in When I Consume You, almost all of it occurs during the night-time providing a rather ominous tone in the non-gentrified parts of Brooklyn. Like Daphne and Wilson, we are constantly looking around, waiting for something to strike. It even seeps into times we are in the daylight; we feel as if we are in a foreign world, that these characters need to only reside in the dark or inside. To hide away from civilisation until they can be more than just survivors.
This is especially the case when we consider how paranoid our characters are, with the camera continually being as close as possible to them when in confined spaces. It also allows for a sense of doubt to rise within the intimacy of the film, is what we see with Wilson actually happening, or has he reached that tipping point where he cannot be saved? It is smart and simple cinematography from Blackshear to put those thoughts across
If anything, When I Consume You maybe tries to juggle too many balls at once, you have a lot of themes going on here, with loss, guilt and addiction just being the main ones. It doesn’t detract from what we see on the screen, but it does cause the film to be a tad messier and less concise than it needs to be. With that said, it excels when focusing on one’s inner demons.
There is so much good work in the opening two acts that it becomes a touch disappointing when the film takes the direction it does. Luckily it saves itself right at the end as it course corrects; an unnecessary amount of misdirection is the source of the blame in what should be an excellent feature. Instead, it drops down from that lofty position as there is a lot in the movie to like, especially the performances.
As a genre fan, it feels odd to say that the more horror elements are not required at all here in When I Consume You. There is so much emotional weight going on that the moments where we get the scares feel false. However, as mentioned, there is still so much to like about this film that it becomes a piece that you need to watch purely for the performances of Ewing and Dumouchel.
When I Consume You is out now on digital.
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