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When I Consume You Review- A Moving, Unflinching Glimpse At Demons Real And Imagined

When I Consume You is a promise. It is an eventuality, not a possibility. There will be no escape, no release, and no hope in Perry Blackshear’s newest movie. Blackshear has made a name for himself crafting intimate, painfully personal horror films. His movies have the power to overwhelm and consume you, for lack of a better word. They aren’t traditional horror movies. They are quieter and more reflective, reminiscent of some psychological greats like Babadook and Requiem For A Dream. Blackshear has an uncanny ability to mix intricate trauma with supernatural elements to create something uniquely his own. When I Consume You, Blackshear’s third movie follows in the same suit and is a grim, atmospheric triumph.

When I Consume You
Courtesy of 1091 Films

Blackshear and long-time collaborators MacLeod Andrews and Evan Dumouchel, who also starred in Blackshear’s previous movies The Siren and They Look Like People, are joined by Libby Ewing. Ewing and Dumouchel play siblings Wilson and Daphne Shaw. They carry the weight of childhood trauma and demons real and imagined through their everyday lives. Yet, they cling to the hope that someday they can shed the addiction and grief that has plagued them to become better versions of themselves. Daphne longs for a child and a family of her own despite her troubled past, while Wilson yearns to be an early childhood teacher and save kids from ever feeling as hurt as he once was.

These things aren’t going to happen, but the siblings cloak themselves in this fantasy until Wilson finds Daphne dead of an apparent suicide one day. Wilson is so stunted by his childhood he runs away from her body and the grief. He changes his mind and returns only to see a man climbing out of her window and across the top of the building. He chases him but can not catch him, and the police are convinced he is imagining things. Was Daphne really being stalked? Slowly Daphne finds a way to return to Wilson and tries to persuade him to stay away from her killer, but Wilson is tired of running and chooses a different path. The result is a harrowing set of encounters that are as quietly terrifying as they are moving.

Blackshear is a master of pacing. He knows when to withhold and when to release the reins to carefully create an oppressive atmosphere that ensnares you without you even knowing it. There are whole beats where you find yourself holding your breath and aren’t even sure why. Nifty tricks allow Daphne to materialize before Wilson and the viewer. A disembodied hand here, and finally, a fully formed person slinking out from underneath a bed there. She leaves a delicate line of breadcrumbs for Wilson to follow that informs every decision he makes after her death. This brother and sister have been cutting themselves off from society forever. Clever camera work shows just how disconnected from everyone else and how connected they were and are to each other.

There is a sweet loveliness to Daphne and Wilson’s relationship that reads true. Ewing and Dumouchel find an instant equilibrium with each other that allows their love to take over the film. These two unconditionally care for each other. Daphne has been trying unsuccessfully to shield her brother since they were children from all the pain they experienced as kids. When she returns to haunt him partly out of guilt and partly out of rage, it feels plausible. Wilson has built a world around fantasy naming plants after beloved Tolkien characters and caring for them as he would have children. These two could have been something different than what they became. That is the real, lasting horror of When I Consume You.

The demon of the siblings’ past is the monster threatening them; however, it just as easily could be the specter of doom. A black hole that sucks in all hope leaving behind only despair and pain. Like Blackshear’s other movies, When I Consume You’s secrets are best left experienced firsthand. The horror comes from the relatability and the confusion that only stems from a cold watch. This is bone-deep fear that lives in all of us.

When I Consume You
Courtesy of 1091 Films

Blackshear may be one of the few directors out there that I argue should never be given a huge budget. He is a singular artist that knows how to make something from almost nothing. It seems part of his genius depends on it, in fact. The minimalistic approach serves him well in early shocks and later reveals a new character who is best left unspoiled. The addition of MacLeod Andrews’ Detective Castille, who is more than he seems, brings a manic energy to the remainder of When I Consume You and marks a change in tone.

As a metaphor for addiction and mental illness, When I Consume You works well. It fits in the same cinematic universe as They Look Like People. Most of the action is filmed in the dark with minimal lighting and covered in layers of grime. Shot in Brooklyn, New York, this is the idea of the “big city” that small towners have. It is a cold, unfeeling place full of dangers and teeming with monsters of the all too human kind. It’s the same dark, dank place that Stephen Karam’s The Humans would take place. Both films have a similar sensibility and nihilism as that family drama masquerading as a paranormal story.

Trauma and grief as horror are prevalent right now. You can hardly watch something that doesn’t capitalize on that premise. When I Consume You doesn’t exploit the pain; however, it creates monsters from the primordial goo of childhood abuses that leave permanent stains regardless of how fast and hard you run. Blackshear continues to make films that speak to universal truths and haunt with quiet demons that sneak out from behind doors and slither from shadows. Rather than manipulate, When I Consume You allows viewers to be their worst enemy and scare themselves.

When I Consume You is available everywhere you stream movies VOD tomorrow August 16th, 2022.