Perry Blackshear made a tremendous impact on the indie horror scene, and the indie film in general with his debut They Look Like People, a film that showed just how terrifying two men in an apartment could be. He followed that up four years later with The Siren. When I Consume You, his third film marks his return to Fantasia.
Wilson (Evan Dumouchel, Movie 43, Doctor Sleep) and his sister Daphne (Libby Ewing, Grow The F*ck Up) have always been there for each other. They got each other through a rough childhood and protected each other as adults. Now Daphne has a stalker who threatens to destroy them both. Wilson must pull himself together because it will take both of them to fight the enemy.
It’s frequently hard to tell what’s real in When I Consume You and what’s the product of a possibly broken mind, something the director said is intentional. The film’s first twenty or so minutes are fairly straightforward enough, or at least they seem that way. Then Blackshear throws an unexpected twist at us and everything changes. It’s hard to say much specifically about the rest of When I Consume You without spoiling this twist. It’s obvious by the way he describes the film’s plot in the film’s publicity and in interviews that Blackshear wants it kept as a surprise. He’s keeping secret what many other directors would consider a perfect high-concept logline.
And I give Blackshear a lot of credit for that. He’s taken what could have been a fairly standard plot, approached it from a different angle and came up with something I haven’t seen before. Unfortunately, the results are as hard to follow as they are to describe without dropping spoilers.
There is a hard-won steady message within the movie that emerged as we were all making it that continues to give me heart: The world is hard. Evil can never be defeated. Loving can bring pain. Live anyway. Fight anyway. Love anyway.Perry Blackshear director When I Consume You
What I can say is that When I Consume You is for most of its length a two-character film. A puzzling and frequently frustrating one. And the arrival of a third player David Castille (MacLeod Andrews, A Ghost Waits, They’re Inside) at the start of the third act doesn’t make it any easier to understand. Eventually, we’re told what was happening by way of a voiceover in time for the film’s climax. That seems to suggest he realized he had painted himself into a corner.
Blackshear has said in interviews he spent a year and a half editing When I Consume You. He may just be a perfectionist, but that long of an editing period also makes me wonder if he didn’t realize the plot wasn’t well enough explained. But since by that point, COVID was preventing reshoots, he had to do his best to “fix it in post”.
Beautifully shot and genuinely creepy in places, When I Consume You bounces around between horror, philosophy/religion and brother/sister relationships. It’s also about growing up and finding oneself, or maybe that should be included under philosophy. I found it all a bit too confusing, but still interesting enough to stick it out until the end. While this might have been a bit too elevated for me, those who like their films on the cryptic side will probably enjoy it a lot more than I did.