The stigma of asking for help dates back generations but continues to affect people worldwide. Whether pride or personal motivations make it impossible for us to reach out, many find themselves at a disadvantage facing off against any number of issues. My family worries about issues regarding addiction. Others may be haunted by diseases like cancer. The trauma we take on early in life may push us towards various responses. Framing these issues through a supernatural lens, Director Perry Blackshear tells a story of a brother and sister stalked by a demon. Both metaphorical and emotional, the film’s ability to transcend its own narrative makes it a relatable and haunting experience.

Daphne (Libby Ewing) struggles as she strives to create a family. While attempting to adopt, she strives to protect her brother, Wilson (Evan Dumouchel). One day, Wilson returns to Daphne’s home to find her overdosed, only to spot a hooded figure fleeing the scene. Wilson later meets an apparition claiming to be Daphne, who conveys that the siblings have been followed by a demon for years. As Wilson attempts to avenge his sister, he also grows paranoid about the creature that seeks him.

Blackshear directs the film in a way that helps us empathize with his characters early and often. The film opens with Daphne attempting to hide her bruises from her brother. The extreme close-ups place us in the room with her, exposing us to a scene that even her closest confidant cannot observe. As the story unfolds, Blackshear utilizes this visual trick while dipping into first-person points of view. This choice further adds to the terror, putting us in the literal shoes of our protagonists as they run from creatures hiding in the shadows. At the same time, the whipping camera adds to the confusion of the sequence. Blackshear captures the paranoia of being hunted by paranormal phenomena, allowing us to bond with Wilson and Daphne.

Ewing and Dumouchel each stand out in their performances. Ewing’s lived-in performance cannot be ignored as she pulls emotional complexity and trauma into every sequence. While using trauma as a character motivator has become overused, Ewing makes it feel so natural, her pain seeps from the screen. While asking for that help may have saved her life, she becomes a sympathetic character that finds their only solace in drug use, even as it destroys their future. Her character becomes a sad comment on the opioid epidemic. The tragedy of her life and death is only heightened by her intention to save her brother.

Dumouchel shoulders the burden of carrying the film in the second half of the film. As he struggles to do right by his sister, trauma eats away at his soul. Even as others try to connect with him, he pushes them away with genuine force. Dumouchel paints his face with grief and crumbling self-esteem. While he believes he can truly stop the creature that destroyed his sister, the toll exerts a physically exhausting toll. Dumouchel’s physicality in the role captures that pain.

The only issue that Blackshear runs into with When I Consume You is the overly broad theming. There are many ways in which one can read the story. The shadows of addiction hang high over the film, while generalized grief seems to have wrapped itself around all the characters. As a result, the actual plot mechanics of the narrative are left a little unclear. Blackshear prioritizes the emotions his film elicits above other aspects, sometimes to the film’s detriment.

When I Consume You delivers on every level as a drama and an upsetting horror film. While the supernatural bend pushes the narrative further, Blackshear elevates the movie with the complex emotional relationship at its center. This makes for a rewarding experience, with two excellent performances at its heart. This allows When I Consume You to sneak up on the audience as an emotional experience.

Alan’s Rating: 8/10

When I Consume You is available to rent on various Video-On-Demand platforms. Find it on VUDU, iTunes, Amazon, YouTube, and more.

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