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When I Consume You Review

August 12, 2022 | Posted by Jeremy Thomas
When I Consume You Image Credit: 1091 Pictures
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When I Consume You Review  

Directed by: Perry Blackshear
Written by: Perry Blackshear

Wilson Shaw – Evan Dumouchel
Daphne Shaw – Libby Ewing
David Castille – MacLeod Andrews

Image Credit: 1091 Pictures

Running Time: 90 minutes
Not Rated

The horror genre has always been a good place to explore themes of trauma, but that’s particularly been the case over the last several years. Whether the films of Ari Aster, Jayro Bustamante’s Guatemalan take on La Llorona, or the generational and racial trauma of Nia DaCosta’s Candyman, horror based on the damage we carry with us has been pretty much everywhere as of late. It’s even seeped into the biggest mainstream films, turning Halloween into a tale of Laurie Strode’s scars and The Invisible Man into a story of escaping abuse.

Trauma horror is a subgenre that Perry Blackshear has already made his mark in. The writer-director arrived on the scene with 2019’s They Look Like People, an unnerving and effective bit of psychological horror that set expectations high for his future work. His latest film is When I Consume You, which arrives on VOD on August 16th (available here) and meets the lofty bar established by his debut.

Where They Look Like People centered itself on a friendship, When I Consume You goes familial. Evan Dumouchel and Libby Ewing star as Wilson and Daphne, siblings living in New York City. The two grew up in a difficult environment and lean on each other on a daily basis to get by. Libby has a history involving drug and alcohol abuse, while Wilson has yet to really grow up and is beset with panic attacks. Both of them dream for greater things in life: Libby wants to adopt and Wilson dreams of being a teacher. Unfortunately, their traumas make both of their goals unlikely.

Their problems don’t stop there, though. Daphne, it turns out, has been plagued by a stalker for quite some time although she hasn’t informed her brother about this. This entity is more than human, and she does what she can to protect herself and keep Wilson safe from it as it appears to have designs on them both. Unfortunately, all her plans are naught as Wilson stops by after a crushing setback in his teacher goal to find her dead of an apparent overdose. He chases a dark figure who he sees peering in the window and tries to convince the police she was murdered, but they don’t believe him.

Lost and adrift without his big sister, Wilson tries to track down her murderer to no avail. He then gets some unlikely help – from Daphne herself, still trying to help him from the afterlife. The siblings set out to stop their demonic enemy, with Daphne acting as a ghostly guide and Wilson becoming obsessed with justice to the point of his own potential detriment.

When I Consume You finds its strength in the bond between its two lead characters. Blackshear puts his trust in Dumouchel and Ewing, the former of whom worked with him on both of his previous feature films. The sibling connection between Wilson and Daphne is brought to life in the film’s lengthy quieter moments; Dumouchel and Ewing have a chemistry that feels authentic. It allows us to care about these characters through each other’s eyes, such as a charming scene when Daphne helps Wilson through a panic attack by playing a take on Magic: the Gathering using a deck of Tarot cards.

While those sorts of scenes mean that the film takes a bit of time to ramp up, it also makes the horror hit with real impact. There’s a very real feeling of the bottom dropping out when Wilson finds his sister’s body, one amplified by Blackshear’s refusal to amp the moment up with sound cues or other dramatic tricks. Blackshear has an uncanny ability to know when to lean into the horror and when to let it stand for itself; later in the film when the threat becomes more aggressive, he employs close-up angles and some sound choices that will send chills up the spines of ASMR-averse people.

While there are certainly moments of horror that resonate, this is a film where mood and tone reign supreme. Blackshear is telling a story about the weight of trauma, and the weight of depression and self-inflicted wounds presses down throughout. Blackshear doesn’t hold back from the hopelessness that mental health struggles can feel like; neither does he provide his characters with easy outs. The ghostly Daphne wants to toughen Wilson up so he can face the world (and more specifically their monster) without her, and that isn’t an easy road.

Is it worth protecting Wilson’s soul from their demon if he has to kill it in the process? How do you handle the trauma you suffered while growing up, and how do you deal with your inner demons? Blackshear is interested in questions like that. To do it, he excludes just about everything outside of the two siblings and their demon. A late appearance by Blackshear regular MacLeod Andrews as a cop Wilson encounters provides a brief injection of manic energy into the proceedings (and a brief bit of much-needed levity), but it doesn’t divert long before we’re right back on the point with a laser focus.

Blackshear also establishes his tone quite nicely through visuals, as Wilson spends most of his nights wandering the empty streets of Brooklyn and staring at men who could be his enemy. He frames the empty, shadow-filled streets in several long shots to emphasize Wilson’s lost and lonely nature; we truly realize that even with Daphne there to a degree, he’s going to have to ultimately do this alone.

It must be said that When I Consume You is not a film that’s going to work for everyone. The way it focuses on tone and relationships over scares and narrative – though there are enough of both the latter – will turn some people off. There’s a bit of a mumblecore element there, and that’s not a genre for everyone; this is one of those “movies where nothing really happens,” as some might complain.

All that said, the nuances within the so-called “nothing” are wonderfully captured, and the brother-sister bond is engaging enough to draw the viewer in and keep them long enough for things to start getting gnarly. It’s a film about resilience and finding it in yourself to stand up to your own pain. Blackshear doesn’t give us any pat answers; it doesn’t tell us that we can just defeat our problems. The answers we get are more complex than that and more satisfying, putting a strong finish on a dark but potent narrative from a director operating right inside his wheelhouse.

When I Consume You is available on VOD on August 16th. You can pre-order it here

The final score: review Very Good
The 411
When I Consume You is another triumph from Perry Blackshear. Those who didn't vibe with his They Look Like People may find this challenging, but Evan Dumouchel and Libby Ewing's standout performances keep this going strong even when the movie takes its time to unspool the story. With a bleak mood, some effective horror sequences and strong thematic depth, this is a slow-burn horror story with the power to both unnerve and inspire.

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When I Consume You, Jeremy Thomas