Tuesday 16 February 2021

Broil (USA 2020: Dir Edward Drake)

Drake's latest movie fuses two 2018 sources - the 'supernatural goings on under the cloak of respectability' shenanigans of Ali Larter's flick Hereditary (a film which, despite its lukewarm reception, is often used as a critical touchpoint these days); and the rich family in crisis machinations of Jesse Armstrong's TV series Succession - to tell its story of the Sinclair family.

Broken down into separate chapters, like a fairytale gone wrong, we meet schoolgirl Chance Sinclair (Avery Konrad) who is prone to getting suspensions from school for retaliating against getting picked on. Chance has an acute medical condition requiring her to have regular blood transfusions and stay out of direct sunlight, but it doesn't stop her being strong enough to knock the teeth out of a classmate when teased. She has been told that she is special, but knows little about her family and the dynastic destiny that awaits her.

Chance's mum and dad, June (Annette Reilly) and December (Nels Lennarson), are engaged in putting together a business plan with the head of the Sinclair family, August (a ripe, almost pantomimic performance from Timothy V. Murphy - remember Al Pacino in 1997's The Devil's Advocate?), in anticipation of their daughter's soon come 18th birthday, which is to be celebrated in style. June and December want to break from the family and the price they have to pay is twofold; the procurement of one more soul to be sacrificed - the harvesting of souls being a regular thing in the Sinclair household - and the handing over of Chance to August.

But behind the scenes Chance's parents are planning something more dramatic, namely the death of the patriarch, and to enact this have roped in local chef, occasional assassin and poison specialist Sydney (Jonathan Lipnicki turning in on the spectrum performance where he almost manages to avoid making eye contact with every other cast member) to cater for a spectacular dinner party which will mark the overthrow of the family. But August has other plans.

The various other members of the famille Sinclair, including sword wielding Uncle November (Corey Large) who also goes by the name of 'Molloch' and 'Titan' and befanged May (Alyson Bath) crop up and deepen, or confuse, the family mystery further. At times Chance seems to disappear into an alternative world where she learns a little more about her family from a woman, Luck (Abby Ross). Are the Sinclairs vampires or some quasi rich breed descended from a Bret Easton Ellis short story? Happily some mordant humour - that Hereditary reference again - lets you question how seriously the viewer should be taking all this. 

Drake builds a convincing atmosphere of patriarchal dominance but frustrates with a fractured storyline and a whole load of characters who just aren't very nice. Broil is a movie more to admire than enjoy but its wry humour often saves it from its introspective nature and there's a sumptuous score from Hugh Wiellenga to add an extra layer of class.

Broil is released on DVD and Digital from Signature Entertainment on February 15, 2021

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