Review: WHEN I CONSUME YOU, Creepy, Thought-Provoking, Masterful
Perry Blackshear, the director of the 2015 indie slow-burn film They Look Like People, is back with another really interesting, micro-budget creeper, When I Consume You.
The premise is simple. A brother and sister try to fend off a mysterious stalker. It gets less simple when this stalker seems to appear out of nowhere, materializing in the darkness of a closet or in the shadows of a sketchy urban street. And then there are those glowing yellow eyes that seem to not just pierce, but see into and KNOW everything about them.
It's the perfect metaphor for trauma. An all-seeing, all-knowing demon that's always with you, and it appears whenever you're at your lowest and most vulnerable. It's a thing that you can't shake, no matter how hard you try.
Some are luckier than others in fighting their trauma, but without the ability to properly care for oneself, that trauma can grow and become so powerful that it can destroy you.
While we never learn what the siblings in When I Consume You suffer from in particular, it's clear that they're survivors of a less-than-great childhood. The film solidifies that Blackshear -- who wrote, edited, and shot the film, in addition to directing -- can do wonders with character and story within a constrained budget.
Daphne (Libby Ewing) and Wilson (Evan Dumouchel) are the downtrodden, brother-sister leads whose energy (like lots of survivors) is redlined by just trying to get through each day. When you walk the world so weary, there isn't much left for anything other than existing.
The stalker I mentioned earlier unfortunately gets the better of Daphne, who'd worked really hard to be the strong one in the family. Wilson's left to his own devices, at least for the moment, and he vows to track down the stalker (David Castille) he thinks is responsible for Daphne's death.
And then something unexpected happens, and Wilson isn't quite alone anymore. Something that comes from an unexplainable place, a kind of purgatory, spiritual realm, or other plane of existence. Wilson gets stronger in his ability to find and fight this stalker-demon, but is it worth fighting? Will it come for him in the end, anyway, no matter how hard he hits back?
It's difficult to review a film like When I Consume You without spoilers. Some things may or may not be real. All of these demonic symbols and scribblings, are they really there? Or are they the end result of a fractured mind, which was likely a combination of addiction, genetics, trauma, and living in a system that only helps the most privileged among us (for which the system was designed)?
The performances are quite strong in this powerful film, and they have to be in a story like this, with sparse resources. Though I haven't yet seen Blackshear's last film The Siren, I'm interested. And I'd like to see what he can do with a real budget. But until then, don't sleep on When I Consume You. It's masterful and thought-provoking, and an incredible example of what can be done with little -- though Blackshear deserves much more.
Review originally published in slightly different form during Fantasia in August 2021. The film is now available on various Video On Demand platforms in the US, Canada, UK, Ireland, Australia and New Zealand via 1091 Pictures.
When I Consume You
- Perry Blackshear
- Perry Blackshear
- Libby Ewing
- Evan Dumouchel
- MacLeod Andrews