Broil is the latest offering from up-and-coming writer/director Edward Drake, and it is clear from the movie that he is itching to show his talents. The film centers around Chance Sinclair, a young student who is heir to a wealthy family, suffers from a disease that requires her to stay out of the sun and get blood transfusions, and who isn’t afraid to throw hands when disrespected. Chance’s life is turned upside down when her parents, eager to be free of her controlling grandfather, August Sinclair, send her to live with him as part of a deal to extricate themselves from the Sinclair family. While Chance is left to slowly discover the family history, that they are actually a mythical form of vampires, her parents, June and December, hatch a plot to kill her grandfather by strong-arming a strange young chef into poisoning him during a yearly, ritualistic family dinner. However, August is not as ignorant as June and December suppose, and the family dinner turns into a deadly power struggle that may claim the lives of everyone involved.
While Broil has a fairly interesting story, I wished there were more of it. Pretty much all of the characters in this movie are fascinating, but we don’t get a whole lot of time with any of them outside of Chance. I’d have no problem with this film being significantly longer if it spent more time fleshing out the various Sinclair family members and the chef. On a similar note, the movie has a fascinating lore that doesn’t get touched on too much until the last twenty minutes or so, and I would have loved to have had that mythology more fleshed out and developed. One aspect of the story that rubbed me the wrong way was the cannibalism, not because I have an issue with it’s use in the horror genre, but because I am a huge fan of vampires and vampire mythology and I do not like that mythology mixed with cannibalism. Sure, this is a personal pet peeve, but it is one that others might share, so I figured I should mention it.
The production values in Broil aren’t quite top notch, but they far exceeded my expectations. The film is well directed with notable cinematography that strives to be creative and effective, and while it doesn’t always hit this mark, the effort never comes off as incompetent. The settings and locations are perfect, particularly the home of August Sinclair which is exactly the kind of home you would expect a subtle, powerful vampire to have. Also, I was quite impressed by the end credits sequence as it uses some gorgeous art pieces with fascinating depictions out of what I am assuming is the film’s mythology. In fact, the end credits were so good that it almost made me upset that they hadn’t found a better way to incorporate that art into the film in some way when the family backstory was coming to light.
One small faux pas for me were the campfire sequences that were used as a framing element. The film opens with one and comes back to it periodically throughout the film, and while the sequences themselves aren’t bad, they are disruptive to the flow, particularly before the purpose of them is explained, to the point that I found myself getting annoyed and confused with them. Had the revelation of those sequences come in sooner, or had it simply opened the film and not been visited again until the climatic moment, than I think it would have worked much better.
Another area that didn’t quite work for me were the strange visions that Sydney has. I am still not sure of the purpose of them, though my theory is that they reflect what would occur if he were to fail or to join the vampires. Regardless, they are more of a distraction than a benefit to the movie, and I wish they were either better explained or done away with.
As far as the effects go, there are some plusses and minuses but overall, I think they were well done. While the effects for the vampires are not a stylistic choice I would have gone with, they were well done and interesting, which is better than many other vampire movies out there. There was only minimal visual horror, but I think this was done for budgetary reasons rather than straight aversion, and the aftereffects of violence were certainly well portrayed. There was a fight sequence during the post dinner trials that was a little hard to follow, but the end result and consequences were clear, which is what was most important.
While the entire cast delivered solid performances, there were three that really stood out to me. Sydney the chef was played by Johnathan Lipnicki, who some people might remember as the boy from Jerry Maguire, and he delivers one hell of a performance here. Sydney has a very quiet way about him, but also an intensity and a sharpness that is always front and center, and Lipnicki nails this, giving us a character that is fascinating, engrossing, and mesmerizing. It can be difficult to pull off a charismatic villain, and to do so in a way that seems original, but Timothy V. Murphy does just that with the role of August Sinclair. Murphy brings a creepy, joyful intensity to August that makes him fun to watch, even when he is doing horrible things. Lastly, Avery Konrad delivers a subtle performance as Chance Sinclair. Chance is a young woman trying to figure out who she wants to be when she is thrown into less-than-ideal circumstances surrounding the family drama, and Konrad infuses her with he right balance of youthful arrogance and trepidation to a deliver exactly what is needed from the character, even though that results in her getting upstaged by the more boisterous characters much of the time.
While Broil didn’t quite hit all the right notes for me, it was certainly more than worth my time. The performances are engrossing, the story is intriguing, though I wish there were more of it, and the production values are noteworthy. I am not sure what direction writer/director Edward Drake’s career is going to take, but this film has me interested to find out.