‘When I Consume You’ Review: Dir. Perry Blackshear [Best of the Fests]

Writer and director Perry Blackshear reunites with his acting team of Evan Dumouchel, MacLeod Andrews, and Margaret Ying Drake, for his latest project, When I Consume You. This time around the group, who have previously made both They Look Like People and The Siren together, are joined by Libby Ewing as they all tell a dark story about trauma, grief, and the occult. The story follows adult siblings Daphne (Ewing) and Wilson (Dumouchel) as they seek revenge on a mysterious stranger who is intent on causing them harm. 

The siblings clearly share a past childhood of trauma, and much like the menace that they are dealing with, it is ever present and always following them. Our brother and sister pairing are tackling demons both literal and psychological, the scars of each manifesting in different ways. Libby is the higher functioning of the two, a clear case of the girl who grew up too fast; she does all that she can to shield her more sensitive brother from the harshness of the world. Wilson’s trauma is apparent in his shell shocked demeanour, he’s quiet and introverted, only coming alive around Libby. So when Libby is murdered, in one swoop Wilson loses his guardian, sister, and lifeline. Libby isn’t entirely departed though as she begins to haunt her brother. With Libby still around, Wilson is relieved that he isn’t alone and begins training to avenge his sister. As much as he is training to do battle with evil, Wilson is also finally learning to stand on his own two feet, out of the shadows of his sister. 

Visually and tonally Blackshear leaves the sunshine climes of The Siren behind, returning to the dark and moody nighttime cityscapes and enclosed and claustrophobic spaces that worked so well in They Look Like People. This setting suits the atmosphere of the film, further highlighting Wilson’s isolation from the work around him. The city streets aren’t the busy hubbub that one would typically associate with such an overpopulated place, they are desolate and dangerous, perfectly projecting the idea of a devil’s playground where demons and such can run rampant with no risk of persecution. 

As always there are some nifty little touches that non-verbally convey aspects of the characters’ personas. For example, we see that Wilson is a keen horticulturist and the care and attention that he pays to his plants shows that he is a careful and kind person. The fact that each of his potted friends are given names that are plant based puns on characters from Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings series conveys Wilson’s interest in the fantastical. This openness to the idea of life-altering quests, facing danger and overcoming evil, makes it easier for the viewer to believe how quickly the character buys into his own strange situation. 

Although a new addition to the team Libby Ewing fits in perfectly. Her performance as Daphne is strong and assured, Ewing picking a perfect path that sees Libby balancing that line between surviving and drowning. Ewing has a brilliant chemistry with Dumouchel; the pair have a comfortable connection that could easily be interpreted as family. Dumouchel gives yet another great turn for Blackshear. His last outing for his director friend was as a mute man in The Siren. Whilst Wilson is perfectly capable of speech, Dumouchel has clearly remembered some things he learned from his earlier role and let’s his actions speak just as loudly as his words. Rounding out our core cast is MacLeod Andrews as a version of the thing lurking in the dark that is waiting to devour our familial unit. Although he doesn’t make an appearance until late in the film, Andrews’ appearance is akin to lighting in a bottle, his arrival striking a manic energy into the piece, whose momentum thereafter keeps the story moving. 

Another distinct and stimulating story from a dream team of cast and crew, When I Consume You presents a complex analysis of growing up. How we learn to cope with trauma, process grief, and eventually learn to live with our inner demons, are all explored in what is the group’s third feature-length project together. Stunning action and emotive visuals work together to create yet another concise and perceptive study of the human condition. Yet another fantastic slice of filmmaking from Perry Blackshear and his incredibly talented cast. If you enjoyed The Siren and They Look Like People, you’re definitely going to enjoy this dark nightmare. 

Rating: 4 out of 5.

This review first appeared on THN.