An emotionally stirring and skilfully fashioned story of sibling bonds and trauma.
Synopsis: A woman and her brother seek revenge against a mysterious stalker.
The beauty of horror is in its ability to weave poignant metaphor into its scares and When We Consume You functions as an excellent example of that connection. The metaphors here are so unsubtle as to hardly be metaphor at all, but this is a film that knows what it wants to discuss and does so while also managing some stand-out genre moments.
Daphne (Libby Ewing) and Wilson (Evan Dumouchel) are sister and brother, intensely bonded by a traumatic childhood that means they no longer speak to their parents. The details of that childhood, delivered in snippets of dialogue paint a painful portrait, making the intensity of their connection understandable and touching. These are siblings forced to cling to one another in the most desperate circumstances. Despite these obstacles, the pair are still attempting to better their lives, with Daphne looking into adoption and Wilson working on his job.
As is the case with many lower budget productions, much of the success lies in the performances with Ewing and Dumouchel perfectly finding the nuance and empathy in their characters. An early scene where Daphne talks adoringly about her brother, declaring him ‘the best’ in an otherwise routine conversation is incredibly touching and it is credit to the film that it allows even the smallest of these moments space to breathe without slowing the plot. Every beat is meaningful. MacLeod Andrews adds a strong supporting performance which requires swift changes in tempo. All the performances are in step with one another, adding to the cohesion and direction of the film.
Although operating on a lower budget, the use of close-quarters choreography for scenes involving conflict is very effective and adds considerably to the impact. Director Perry Blackshear has a knack for portraying contact, whether that is in terms of violence, or gentle, even ethereal touch. These moments are supported by incredible sound design. A simple raised arm, punctuated by the soundscape becomes something beautiful and spiritual. As the film builds, so does the layering of sound, music dropped in perfectly to full effect, duelling voices and physicality all operating in a disquieting harmony. The closeness of the camera during some sections occasionally strays into uncomfortable intimacy, but the packaging is so compelling that it draws in rather than repels.
While there is much to praise in the film’s handling of human, emotive elements, it also delivers on its horror. Jump scares are not everyone’s favourite horror cliché, but when they are well-crafted and earn the jolt from the viewer it is hard to argue with them. That is definitely the case here. The horror lore it seeks to lean into is explored enough without becoming too central and exposing all its mystery.
Beautiful, affecting but with plenty of scares and horror trappings, When I Consume You is a wonderful example of how powerful horror can be, especially when it is ultimately a story of hope.
5 out of 5 stars
When I Consume You premiered at the Fantasia Film Festival on August 18th. A second screening takes place today (Friday 20th August) – see here for tickets.