What we do when alone and in silence can say a lot about a person’s character. In today’s short attention span, quiet can almost feel deafening and smothering. Most people can’t deal without something available to distract them, and I’m including myself. This makes it all the more noble when someone can go off alone to pursue a venture such as write a book, create a piece of art, or in the case of THE ALCHEMIST COOKBOOK premiering at Fantasia 2016, turn lead into gold.
Last year, I was thoroughly pleased by the dark comedy BUZZARD directed by Joel Potrykus (my full review here. So, without surprise, I was excited to hear that his follow up would be at Fantasia Film Festival, and I would be able to see it. Beyond the fact that he had directed it, I knew nothing beyond that a few other reviewers dug it. Plus, I was intrigued the inclusion of alchemy.
Yes, in THE ALCHEMIST COOKBOOK, we follow Sean (Ty Hickson, KILLER, GIMME THE LOOT) as he pursues the ancient art of alchemy in a more modern approach. Think of it as season 1 of Breaking Bad style work. Like BUZZARD, he allows the camera to just linger on our protagonist, allowing us to see what happens even in silence. The film goes 15 minutes before any dialogue occurs so we are able to get to know the true side of the character, as he isn’t putting on a facade to other people. From this, we learn that Sean is determined, despite setbacks, he continues forward with an ever scientific mind. But he’s also caring. He’s obviously dealing with potent chemicals, yet despite this, when a small explosion is heard, he freaks out to get his gas mask on his cat before himself.
While Sean does live in seclusion, his one outlet to the outside world is regular visits from Cortez (Amari Cheatom, DJANGO UNCHAINED, NEWLYWEEDS). Cortez is a childhood friend that has obviously gone a different route in life than Sean. Braggadocios, loud and abrupt, besides bringing food and supplies to Sean, he brings an almost overwhelming persona. It’s not hard to see why Sean would prefer solitude in comparison if their home environment creates this. What Cortez didn’t bring this time though was a refill to Sean’s medication. And the way Sean seems to depend on these meds, we feel the urgent need alongside him. What’s going to happen?
What follows is a heart breaking and intriguing slip into madness that you can’t help wonder if Sean has been crazy all along, or if this is all due to demonic manifestation he’s trying to tap into. Oh yeah. Our boy Sean has gone and made an infernal pact to learn his craft, and the pact owner is coming to claim payment.
Potrykus knocked it out of the park with ALCHEMIST COOKBOOK. As opposed to BUZZARD, our protagonist is extremely sympathetic, so his descent into madness is all the more heart wrenching. And he leaves so much off screen, which adds so much more to the viewer’s imagination, increasing the impact. I’ve heard comparisons to EVIL DEAD, but with the limited cast, the minimal shot locations, and the diverse soundtrack, I can’t help but draw a parallel to Jeremy Gardner’s THE BATTERY.
THE ALCHEMIST COOKBOOK premiered yesterday, 7/20/16 at Fantasia Film Fest. Be sure to track it down if you’re in the area
, and if not, pray that it gets a distribution deal that it truly deserves! The film is going to be distributed by Oscilloscope Labs, with schedule still pending.