I’m always wary about movies that deal with mental health issues, especially horror movies. Because, unfortunately, they write themselves into a corner and then cop out by having the main character sacrifice themselves to eliminate the anthropomorphised mental illness – i.e., killing themselves. As someone who has struggles with OCD, anxiety and depression, this is a thoroughly irresponsible message to keep pushing and does a disservice to the stories these films could be telling.
That said, I can’t say either way which route this film takes without spoiling it, but I can say that the journey to get there mostly errs on the side of respect when it comes to things like drug abuse, alcoholism, antidepressant use and general mental health, but I do think that the slightly shallow non-side-taking it does do is too sofly-softly for a story whose emotional hook rests on such delicate, bittersweet and realistic subject matter. Which is a shame.
Anyway, the film When I Consume You, written, directed and photographed by Perry Blackshear, follows a pair of siblings (Libby Ewing and Evan Dumouchel) who work together to fight the sister’s stalker. A fairly simple plot, and it does feel at times that the proceedings just amble from scene to scene in a very one-note way, which actually makes the pace drag a bit despite its brisk 80-odd-minute runtime.
I think also to its detriment is the fact that this is an ordinary story with hints of the supernatural but that is grounded in bleak reality, and that needs elevation by stronger performances than we get here. I can’t be sure if that’s down to directing or the acting itself, but I recall one of the leads being capable in the similarly toned They Look Like People, which also has the same director. Much of the horror elements have been done better in other films, and I don’t think this film comes off as knowing what’s trying to say about the heavy subjects it depicts.
Ultimately, I think the real star of this film is the setting and how it’s photographed: The streets of New York look positively grim and have pockets of isolation and desolation in their reality, rather than the bustling roads of opportunity they’re often portrayed as. There’s a truly chilling scene in which a character takes himself out into the street in the hopes that any of the passers-by might see him and get him help, but for the most part people either ignore or, worse, stop to see what’s going on and still don’t stop. Therein lies the unforgiving horror of city living.