Thursday, July 21, 2016

Fantasia 16 Film Review - The Alchemist Cookbook

Sean (Ty Hickson) has checked out from society. He's living permanently in a family trailer in the woods with his main companion his cat Kasper. His only human contact is with his cousin Cortez (Amari Cheatom) who brings him supplies. Sean spends most of the day working with his hands. He cuts batteries, pounds potions, works his blowtorch and checks on vials of blood in his sparsely filled fridge. His garbage bin appears to be anywhere he throws something in the trailer. The two main sources of nourishment are sports drinks and Doritos chips.

However he does have a purpose out in the Michigan hinterland. Sean plans to use the science of Alchemy to make gold, become rich and build a mansion in the woods where he and Kasper can live in peace away from society. Somewhere along the way his plan is derailed by the sounds of the forest that are interpreted as a demon an entity that Sean has decided to summon.

Writer / Director Joel Portykus third film continues the minimalist vision of his prior features Ape and Buzzard. As is his nature Portykus takes focusing on mundane daily activities to an art form. Two particular sequences stand out in this regard. We see Sean slowly drink an unmarked sports drink until the last drop is drained. In the other our protagonist eats several Doritos in slow bites until he's distracted by a bang outside.

As the action progresses sparked by Cortez forgetting Sean's meds on a supply run the demon wins out over the Alchemy. Sacrifices are prepared and given becoming more personal with each offering.  Sean's features begin to change along with his behaviour both inside and outside the trailer.

Ty Hickson occupies just about every frame of the film in the role of Sean. His mental state is constantly under debate throughout the piece. How much of what we are seeing on the screen real and how much is in his head? The pace is exceeding slow giving Hickson a lot to do to keep the viewers interest considering that most of the time for the majority of the film he has no foil. Amari Cheatom pops in at just the right times when the narratives begins to strain. Cheatom offers much needed comic relieve as Cortez firing several factorial yet funny observational points on his cousins state of affairs.

The Alchemist Cookbook is a strong piece of indie cinema. The scale and budget are as small as the remote trailer where most of the action takes place but Portykus gives the viewer enough material to trigger the audiences imagination to flesh out the shadowy, hidden and unspoken elements of the film. It's a study in patience but in the end a worthwhile watch that I can recommend.

*** 1/2 Out of 4.

The Alchemist Cookbook | Joel Portykus | U.S.A. | 2016 | 82 Minutes.

Tags: Alchemy, Demon, Belial, Doritios, Sacrifice, Michigan, I-Roc, Dancers, Prescription Meds.

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