starring MacLeod Andrews, Evan Dumouchel, Libby Ewing
written and directed by Perry Blackshear
by Walter Chaw Living with addiction, Daphne (Libby Ewing) and Wilson (Evan Dumouchel) are siblings on the perpetual edge of destitution. They are each other's only means of emotional and occasionally material support. As writer-director Perry Blackshear's When I Consume You opens, Daphne spits blood and other viscera into a sink and yells through the bathroom door that she just needs a minute. She has a secret to hide, and her brother seems to be having a rough time of it, so maybe that's why she's not telling him whatever it is that's going on with her. A lovely early scene that won me over, as it happens, sees Wilson having a panic attack and Daphne talking him through it. This depiction of the sibling relationship is intimate, empathetic, and authentic-feeling. There've been a few compelling sibling relationships anchoring horror films--I'm thinking of the brothers in The Lost Boys, or the brother/sister in Jeepers Creepers, and how those films similarly use threats to that relationship as empathy engine and maybe even as a metaphor for growing apart. A flashback in When I Consume You to, if not "happier," at least earlier times, shows the pair working on a project together in a tight physical space talking about shared burdens and possible futures that we know are insurmountable on the one hand and doomed on the other. Affecting stuff, and it proves to be the central concern of When I Consume You after all the sound and fury burns off: It's your siblings who know what you've been through; and maybe it's your siblings who, for as much as they're responsible for you holding on to your demons, will help you get past them, too.
Wilson discovers Daphne dead in her apartment. It looks like drugs, but there are disturbing things left lying about: a pentagram for one, her journal for another--a diary filled with ramblings about infernal visitations and Buddhist rites. Wilson, fragile, becomes unmoored and convinced that a stalker murdered Daphne. He finds him (MacLeod Andrews), or thinks he finds him, and gets a severe beating as a reward. Then Daphne shows up and...more would be telling. Quickly, When I Consume You becomes about how Daphne and Wilson have spent their entire lives on the wrong side of luck: their childhood haunted by insufficient parents and capricious misadventure, their adulthood marred by addictions and petty crimes that have left Wilson on the verge of homelessness and Daphne unable to adopt a child despite a half-decade on the wagon. There are a lot of strikes against them. They only have each other, which isn't much. Daphne eventually suspects that the ills that plague them are not merely the universe being an asshole, but rather a demon, an evil thing gaining sustenance from their misfortune.
When I Consume You is about dealing with trauma and providing support systems for the traumatized. It begins as a fairly straightforward thriller and ends as an intricately-plotted genre exercise that sees Daphne planning for her death and afterlife by pulling her brother into a pact with the Devil. There's a training sequence here that, while nothing we haven't seen before, holds interest because it's flavoured by the supernatural. There's a little Garth Ennis in this film as well, and it's great. I also really liked "stalker" David, who presents himself first as a cop, then as a fellow traveller along Wilson's path of grief and addiction, and finally as physical manifestation of the paranoia that has become a scapegoat for the brother and sister's failures. The picture loses momentum in its middle portion, when it dwells too long on misdirection, and its resolution feels convenient where a more ambiguous outcome might have delivered the kill shot. But when it locks in, When I Consume You has weight and import. It's a strong, noble work from a team I'm excited to see more of.