October 31, 2022
by Carla Hay
Directed by Perry Blackshear
Culture Representation: Taking place in New York City, the horror film “When I Consume You” features a predominantly white cast of characters (with a few African Americans and one Asian) representing the working-class and middle-class.
Culture Clash: A brother and a sister, who are in their 30s and live together, have an evil stalker who tries to ruin their lives.
Culture Audience: “When I Consume You” will appeal primarily to people interested in supernatural horror movies that can do a lot on a low-budget and take their time to reveal the cause of the terror in the story.
“When I Consume You” is an effectively atmospheric horror movie with a story that unfolds in layers. This brooding film, which is about a brother and a sister plagued by a mysterious stalker, is not what it might first appear to be to some viewers. “When I Consume You” explores themes about loss, loneliness, power and control that aren’t obvious at the outset. However, these themes that become clearer further into “When I Can Consume You” can give viewers something to think about after watching the movie. This is not the type of horror film that people will see and then instantly forget.
Written and directed by Perry Blackshear, “When I Consume You” centers on the very insular personal lives of unmarried siblings Wilson Shaw (played by Evan Dumouchel) and Daphne Shaw (played by Libby Ewing), who are both in their 30s and who live together in a small apartment in New York City. Why are Wilson and Daphne living together at an age when most siblings live apart in own households? Wilson and Daphne have a murky and traumatic past that is hinted at with some details but never fully disclosed in the movie.
It’s enough to say, based on the siblings’ conversations in the movie, that Wilson and Daphne are very close. They have what could be described as a co-dependent relationship. Daphne is younger than Wilson, but she the bolder and more outspoken of the two siblings. Their parents are still alive, but Wilson and Daphne are no longer in contact with them, apparently by choice. The movie brings up questions that it doesn’t always answer, such as why Wilson and Daphne are estranged from their parents.
In opening scene of “When I Consume You,” Daphne has locked herself in the apartment bathroom and seems to be distress. She pulls a bloody tooth out of her mouth. Wilson is in the next room and worriedly asks Daphne to come out of the bathroom, because he can sense that something is wrong. Daphne tries to pretend that everything is fine with her and says that she’s just taking a shower.
But everything is not fine with Daphne. A flashback scene shows Daphne confronting a man wearing a black hoodie jacket in a deserted parking lot. This hoodie-wearing man is seen multiple times in the movie. And eventually, it’s revealed that this man has been stalking Daphne and has been physically attacking her. Eventually, Wilson sees this man too, under some very tragic circumstances.
Daphne and Wilson are at crossroads in their lives where they want to turn their lives around and have a more stable family. Daphne is a recovering drug addict and alcoholic who has applied to adopt a child. She works as a project manager at a company called Behemoth that is in an industry that is not mentioned in the movie. Daphne is never seen working at her job.
Wilson is a janitor at an unnamed school for underage kids. He is hoping to get a job as a schoolteacher. Wilson has an upcoming job interview to become a schoolteacher, and Daphne helps him rehearse what he’s going to say in the interview. It’s an example of how Wilson is not as confident about his communication skills as Daphne is.
Daphne has her own important upcoming interview. She’s supposed to meet with an adoption counselor named Anete (played by Margaret Ying Drake), who will decide if Daphne is a good candidate to adopt a girl who has recently become available for adoption. Daphne has a lot of nervous tension when she meets with Anete, who is skeptical about moving Daphne’s application forward to have Daphne meet the child.
In a very defensive tone, Daphne explains that she’s clean and sober for at least a year, and she has a steady job. There was apparently a incident in the recent past where Daphne lost her temper and possibly got violent. When Anete brings up this incident (which is vaguely mentioned), Daphne quickly says that she’s sorry it happened and that it will never happen again.
As for her own attitude about parenting, Daphne says in the meeting: “People think they own their kids. They’re not [to be owned]. They’re their own [people]. You’re only there to help and protect them.” Anete still doesn’t look convinced that Daphne is qualified to be an adoptive parent and tells Daphne: “With your history, what would you do if you were me?”
Needless to say, Daphne gets rejected for this adoption. And things don’t go well either for Wilson and his job interview. These two siblings are about to have something even worse happen to them: One day, Wilson comes home to find Daphne on her bed, dead of an apparent opioid drug overdose, because there is drug paraphernalia nearby.
However, almost immediately after Wilson finds Daphne’s body, he sees a man wearing a black hoodie jump out of the window and onto the street. Wilson chases this stranger, but the stranger is able to escape out of sight from Wilson. A terrified Wilson frantically tells police about this stranger, whom he is sure had something to do with Daphne’s death. However, Daphne’s death is ruled as a self-inflicted drug overdose, not a murder.
The rest of “When I Consume You” shows Wilson’s quest to find out the truth. The man who was stalking Daphne now begins to stalk Wilson. And the movie has a major plot development that will come as a surprise, but it leads to more information being revealed about who this stalker is and why this stalker has been targeting Daphne and Wilson.
“When I Consume You” has some slow-paced parts of the movie where Wilson does a lot of moping around New York City. Because he doesn’t talk much and he is in almost every scene of the movie, don’t expect there to be a lot of dialogue in this movie. The dialogue is not wasted on nonsense though. Observant viewers can also discern a lot of the personality traits of Daphne and Wilson, thanks to Dumouchel’s and Ewing’s skillful use of facial expressions and body language.
This is not a horror movie that has a lot of jump scares, but it has slow-burning tension that eventually erupts into an inevitable showdown scene. The “When I Consume You” musical score by Mitch Bain is pitch-perfect in creating a foreboding atmosphere, while Blackshear’s cinematography maintains the movie’s gloomy tone, even during the scenes that take place during the daytime. The villain in the story has a very creepy whisper that can give more chills to viewers than a lot of violent and bloody scenes in other horror movies.
Beyond the horror aspects of the movie, “When I Consume You” shows a tender relationship between siblings whose strong bond with each other has as much to do with trauma and fear as it does with love and respect. Wilson and Daphne are both emotionally damaged siblings who rely on each other for support but seem unaware of how much their co-dependency has stunted their emotional growth. For example, Daphne and Wilson don’t seem to have any other people they are close to in their personal lives.
Dumouchel and Ewing give nuanced performances that make the most of scenes that don’t always telegraph to viewers where the story is going. “When I Consume You” has some imperfections, such as in the last third of the movie that tries to rush in some ambitious action sequences that occasionally look awkward. The middle of the movie has a pace that drags at times, especially during scenes where Wilson is grieving in solitude. These flaws do not ruin the movie, however. Even with all of the horror depicted in “When I Consume You,” the movie offers thoughtful contemplation about love that continues after death.
1091 Pictures released “When I Consume You” on digital and VOD on August 16, 2022.