Luke Hinton takes a look at ‘When I Consume You’, as part of FilmHounds’ ongoing Fantasia Festival coverage.
Nothing says sibling love quite like demonic sacrifice and post-mortem haunting. Well, at least that’s the thesis of When I Consume You, Perry Blackshear’s latest relentlessly dark horror-thriller. It takes cues from just about every street-level, dingy thriller you can think of — from Taxi Driver to You Were Never Really Here — with a devilish twist. The end result is a thrilling concept with a genuinely gripping final act, that sadly takes a little too long to arrive at its fascinating destination.
When I Consume You follows two siblings, plagued by visions of a yellow-eyed demon that harvests the soul of its victims. There’s Daphne (Libby Ewing), the forthcoming and more confident of the duo, and her reclusive older brother Wilson (Evan Dumouchel). They’ve clearly seen a lot in their lives, and it takes all their combined efforts just to hold each other together. For example, Wilson attends interview after fruitless interview, while Daphne’s history with drug addiction lurks in the background. When something shocking happens to Daphne, Wilson gains a new supernatural ally, and focuses his entire life on finding a mysterious hooded stalker — who he believes holds the key to his family’s seemingly eternal purgatory.
If it sounds like a dingy and gripping thriller, that’s because the concept behind When I Consume You is genuinely fascinating. It blends realist family drama with magic realism in a very clever way – one comparable to the early works of Guillermo del Toro. There’s constantly something unsettling going on, and it’s a testament to the film’s precise shiver-inducing tone. The film very purposefully doesn’t play all its cards at once, and screenwriter/director Perry Blackshear is very meticulous with how the film slowly drip-feeds plot elements.
The problem with this approach is that in a film that’s light on dialogue and heavy on atmosphere, it can become difficult to attach oneself to the characters. Wilson is perhaps the biggest victim of this: he’s positioned as the film’s protagonist, and we chart each and every facet of his dramatic change throughout — but we’re never really invited to warm to him. It’s undoubtedly purposeful; but it also means you’ll never be quite as invested in the dramatic third act as Blackshear wants you to be.
The good news is that the final thirty minutes of When I Consume You are genuinely gripping. Without getting into spoilers, it’s here where the film properly leans into its horror inflections, with a range of mesmerising, brutal sequences that linger long after the end credits. It’s also here where the film’s thematic argument—focusing on grief, pervasive thoughts, and how to live with difficult emotional baggage—comes into play most effectively. It’s just a shame that the first hour meanders a little, showing us a lot of the characters, without really getting into who they really are. When I Consume You is a brilliant film on paper: a street-level thriller with a healthy dose of demonic terror. It’s just a shame that the pace and script let it down, not doing enough in the first hour, before packing all the interesting ideas into the ending. It’s still worth watching for the final act alone and the strong performances, but unfortunately you won’t be able to stop thinking just how good the film could’ve been.