In the snowy Utah mountains, an ancient being terrorizes four friends as they try to survive.
And here is that thought: Is this some sort of colossal joke? Am I on Candid Camera? Is this a conspiratorial high-brow psychological experiment?
No. Consumption, a new horror flick being released on VOD on July 26th, will probably forever hold court in the harsh judgement centers of my brain – holding a glowing scepter of poor quality, raising it high and bestowing upon all who see it – 80 minutes of pain, aggravation and disappointment.
It’s bad. It’s really, truly bad.
Two couples – Seth & Becca (David Lautman and Sarah Greyson) and Eric and Mallory (Chris Dorman and Arielle Brachfeld) – go to a mountain condo in the dead of winter, with the intention to… I don’t know – their weekend plans are never made clear. At any rate, there is the tall tale of a ghostly bride who is said to haunt this mountain. The moment the foursome arrives, things go all wonky, strange people inhabit the area (a possible cult?) and violence ensues.
The acting from everyone was pitiful. You’d think with all of the wacky, frightening and unusual things happening in this little condo community, that there would be a little more reaction from the characters. I once again have to call upon a critic of the past, and use their perfectly-suited phrase. It was a review of Hellraiser – from a long-ago issue of Fangoria, I believe. They made note of the fact that the guy playing Kirsty Cotton’s boyfriend, seemed to react to the climax of that film, as if he’d seen things like this every day. And that’s how it feels with the cast of Consumption. So not only is there nothing at stake in the story, but the either inappropriate or non-existent reactions from the cast – offer nothing for the audience to grab onto. They don’t care, so there’s certainly no reason for us to follow along.
Of particular note, was the introduction to this group. As they drive to the snowy location, Seth reveals that his mother is dead. The lack of reaction from his supposed friends is strikingly weird. No vocal replies, no “I’m sorry”. It’s just a perfect example of how the rest of the film is presented. Reactions are either absurd and unexplained, or just not there. In the final moments of the climax and some clearly supernatural, strange things are happening, the actors are totally unemotional – even blank-faced. I simply don’t understand the choices made here. It’s not only worthy of a good old-fashioned “I don’t get it” shaking of the head, but of legit exasperation.
I was extra-disappointed in the performance from Arielle Brachfeld — not because she was any better or worse than the rest of the cast. But I’ve seen her do quality work before. Like the rest of her cast-mates in 2014’s pleasing Chemical Peel, she offered a great performance with genuine and effective emotion in that very enjoyable film. Based on her terribly-lacking performance in this film, I have to assume that writer/director Brandon Scullion is the main blame for the all-around bland performances in Consumption. He’s certainly responsible for all of the other painful missteps.
The story is absolutely non-sensical. There’s a clear attempt to channel some Stanley Kubrick – most notably from The Shining. It’s a wintery place where the location and the location’s history move people to madness. There are even some ridiculous visuals used to transition between scenes (random shots of waves crashing on a beach and some sort of “wormhole” effect straight out of 2001: A Space Odyssey). They don’t work. They don’t make sense. They’re horribly out of place and completely unexplained.
It’s something I like to call “structure”. It’s important in films. We have to be building to something. We have to have development; in character and in the plot. Consumption fails at every one of these. Characters randomly enter and leave the condo. There’s no legitimate reasoning behind any of the character’s choices. They just do things. There’s no build – in the stakes the characters must overcome or in the story. It’s a lazy, lackadaisical and absolutely pointless exercise.
And more of the things which boggle the mind – not one of these modern-day late twenty-something characters have a cell phone? Didn’t buy it. So when things get violent and difficult, there’s not the go-to of “try your cell phone”. Never brought up. Therefore, we’re not provided the usual “no reception up here” garbage. But if you want some realism in your picture, make it real. These characters would have cell phones. Period.
Any attempts to make this location feel remote and out of reach of easy help (ambulances/other non-cult people) don’t work. When the group first pulls into their condo community, we see dozens of other larger resort-type buildings within walking distance – across the street. And even while filming in the snowy woods, the filmmakers fail to keep things looking desolate or lonely. There’s either the corner of a building in the shot, a glimpse of some man-made item (was that a snow-blower?) or wooden walk-ways in plain sight. It did nothing to up the feeling of isolation. It felt as though they weren’t even trying – which feeds into my previously mentioned conspiracy theory.
Also on the technical side, I couldn’t get past the terrible editing. It dragged. It was odd. More than once, shots would be held that extra milli-second – just enough to make it feel awkward. Camera-movements were noticeably strange – adding nothing to the story. It all looked hopelessly amateurish.
The gore effects (I don’t believe any of the actual cuts/hits/slices were actually shown on-screen – only the aftermath) are ineffective and uninspired.
But the biggest problem in Consumption (other than everything else)? The sound design was simply atrocious. Exterior shots were mired in windy background noise. The score over-powered the dialogue – far too many times to count. Different actors at different times would be at lower levels than their scene partners; making it difficult to completely follow what they were saying. Not that it mattered, the dialogue was garbage. It was as if – again – they were trying to make this look and sound terrible. What else am I supposed to think?
There was one visual in the film which offered up a legitimate laugh. It’s a split-second shot of a piece of set-dressing which perfectly captures what has just occurred in the film. But one successfully clever visual during the course of an entire feature-length film, does not, a coherent and enjoyable film make.
Originally titled Live-In Fear, Consumption offers nothing of value. In the words of the great Roger Ebert (no, I’m in no way comparing myself to the master critic himself), “I hated, hated, hated this movie!” And if you disregard my sound advice and watch it – you certainly will too.