With much of the apparently $5,000 budget having been raised through an Indiegogo campaign under the 2014 film’s original title Live-in Fear, Brandon Scullion’s debut feature has now been rebranded Consumption for general circulation. It is in truth a fairly bog standard teens-in-peril horror, taking a lot of its inspiration from The Shining (even down to the Scatman Crothers substitute who meets a sticky end just as it looks like he’s about to rescue everyone), albeit one that attempts to articulate something a little more inventive but flounders on a confused and underwritten script and some underwhelming production choices.
Consumption starts as it means to carry on, hamstrung by affectation rather than the authenticity that Scullion is clearly eager to engender. Our four principal characters are driving to an isolated Utah mountain retreat, when Seth (Lautman) reveals to recovering alcoholic Eric (Dorman) that his mother has recently passed away. The conversation is so unnatural that it immediately becomes impossible either to care about its subject or empathise with its participants – and so the film continues, exposing Mallory (Brachfeld) as a self-harmer and providing an unexpected pregnancy for Becca (Greyson), promoting fabrication over spontaneity and underlining every potential subtlety with a sledgehammer approach to foreshadowing and perfunctory character development.
There’s a Lynchian attempt at background characterisation (Geoffrey Gould and Nancy Wolfe as “the Two Pats” are the best reason for watching, however infrequent their appearances), and Maria Olsen’s arrival as Seth’s Mom stirs up the dynamics a little. But with Seth behaving implausibly intransigently, Eric doing his best Jack Torrance and Mallory reacting to the loss of an appendage with about the same lack of enthusiasm as she musters earlier on for Seth’s unconvincing advances, there is little chemistry between the leads and it falls to Becca to court our empathy, simply by being the least unbelievable of the four leads. The actors do their best in what was obviously a hurried turnaround, but with so little warmth and humour and an overreliance on cliché and contrivance, it’s clear that the focus of Scullion’s film is much more on the technicalities of the somewhat messy plot rather than the humanity of its victims.
Ultimately, given the tiny budget, Consumption must be regarded as a success, but that’s an extremely qualified conclusion. The imagery tries too hard to be striking, and the score sacrifices potency in favour of near ubiquitous atmosphere. That the film was written, directed and co-produced by the same man, who also had a hand in the soundtrack and sound editing, is to be applauded in the circumstances. But had he a less singular vision and a greater eye for authenticity, the result could have been so much better.
Special Features: Director’s commentary / Behind the scenes / Trailer
CONSUMPTION / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR & SCREENPLAY: BRANDON SCULLION / STARRING: ARIELLE BRACHFELD, SARAH GREYSON, DAVID LAUTMAN, CHRIS DORMAN, MARIA OLSEN / RELEASE DATE: OCTOBER 10TH