Supernatural horror movies are a dime a dozen. As much as I love the subgenre, way too many films in it just rip off the greats like The Exorcist and Paranormal Activity, so I’m often a bit skeptical when I watch a new one. But I didn’t feel that way at all with When I Consume You. I figured I was in for something different, and I couldn’t wait to sink my teeth into this unique take on one of my favorite kinds of horror.
Written and directed by Perry Blackshear, When I Consume You stars MacLeod Andrews, Evan Dumouchel, and Libby Ewing. It’s about a pair of siblings named Wilson and Daphne who’ve led a very troubled life. They’ve been trying to turn things around, but so far they haven’t had a ton of success. Then, one day, a tragedy strikes their family, and Wilson comes face to face with the supernatural entity that’s seemingly been behind these siblings’ misfortune since day one. He decides to take matters into his own hands, and he tries to defeat this evil being so it won’t ever be able to hurt him again.
When I Consume You starts out with a bunch of scenes that let you know just how down on their luck Daphne and Wilson really are. It’s a bit disorienting, as the chronology and relation between these events aren’t entirely clear, but it gets the point across well enough. These siblings lead a very difficult life, so you come to sympathize with them very quickly.
And because of that, it’s easy to root for them. You want them to clean their lives up and achieve their dreams, so you genuinely care about what happens to them. This emotional connection to the characters is probably the best thing about the film, and it forms the backbone of the story from beginning to end.
Then, after introducing its main sibling pair, When I Consume You truly kicks into gear. The real story begins when the tragedy strikes, and that’s also when you finally meet the demon that’s been haunting Wilson and Daphne their entire lives. This thing is legitimately creepy, and it’s different from your typical black-as-night, often goat-like hell monster. I was really intrigued by it, and I was sure I’d be in for a whole bunch of good scares from then on out.
But I was wrong. Not too long after that, the story started to slowly fizzle out and lose my interest. The second and third acts have some really great ideas, and there are parts I enjoyed quite a bit, but on the whole, the final two-thirds of the film has three big problems I just couldn’t get over.
For starters, the second act of When I Consume You focuses too much on the characters and not enough on the horror. Sure, there are some cool scenes with the demon, but they’re few and far between. Instead, this part of the movie is mainly about the characters, and even though they’re really sympathetic, they’re not quite interesting enough to carry the story all by themselves. Their slow character moments get a bit tedious after a while, so I often found myself looking at my watch and wondering when the monster was going to show up again.
On top of that, I wasn’t a fan of the way Wilson decided to go after this demon. I don’t want to spoil it, so I’ll just say that it’s very different from the usual supernatural horror tropes we’re used to. I have to give writer/director Perry Blackshear props for trying something new, but it just didn’t work for me. It kind of mixed two different genres, and while this blend might sound interesting on paper, it didn’t quite gel the way it was supposed to.
Finally, let’s talk a bit about the ending. I won’t tell you what actually happens, but I’ll give you some vague and general thoughts about my problems with it. When I Consume You ends a lot like The Babadook, and I don’t mean that as a compliment. As much as I love The Babadook overall, I don’t like how the ending blurs the line between the story it tells and the meaning it’s trying to convey. The finale gets the themes of grief and acceptance across really well, but it does so at the expense of narrative coherence.
And When I Consume You does something very similar. I won’t say how, but the final few scenes sacrifice narrative consistency in order to get across its themes of redemption and overcoming a troubled past. I appreciate those themes very much, but I don’t think a movie should ever sacrifice its narrative for any reason. The story should always stand on its own, and this movie forgets that cardinal rule.
So at the end of the day, I’m sad to say that I wasn’t a huge fan of When I Consume You. It has some great ideas and themes, and there are parts of it that I really enjoyed, but on the whole, it just didn’t work for me. But that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t recommend it. There’s enough interesting stuff in it that I think it’s still worth checking out. I could easily see the film’s themes and its unique approach to the demon outweighing its weaknesses for some people, and you’ll never know if you’re one of them if you don’t give it a shot.
When I Consume You is playing at the Fantasia International Film Festival on August 18 and August 20.