I do not have epilepsy nor do I know a whole lot about the disorder. I understand that it can be triggered by flashing lights and hyper-kinetic movement. Well, if you suffer from this condition, The Cook is not the film for you. Within the first 5 minutes my senses were so assaulted with sound and imagery that I began to feel nauseous and got a little bit of a headache. I’ve suffered through all the tropes one uses when displaying a drug trip in films –hell, I’ve lived a few of them — but never have I seen them utilized to such an extreme degree and ALL of them at once. Cameras swirl and swoop around the characters causing blurred backgrounds, lights flash very brightly, music and dialogue pop in and out at all different volumes. Normally I wouldn’t start a review like this, but I wanted to warn potential viewers who might suffer from motion sickness or may have issues with flashing lights to maybe stay away from this one. Now, onto the meat.
The Cook is from writer, producer, editor and director Joshua Miller, a slasher film completed in 2013 but being released now, in 2017, by Brain Damaged Films. The gist of the story is that a young man (Jeremy Castaldo), wants to honor his tragically killed by accident sister (Samantha Neal), with her last wishes to throw a party in an abandoned park with a few close friends (Amber Tranum, Ashley Elizabeth Pierce, Josh Emanuel). This locale also happens to be the stomping grounds of the eponymous “Cook” (Wade Blevins), a deranged drug manufacturer who may or may not be supernatural in nature.
Low budget horror films fall prey to a number of trends, one is where the directors takes on far too many jobs to get their films completed. They are the writers. They are the producers. The editors, actors, key grips, gaffers, etc. While it is more than likely a necessity to wear more than one hat in order to get the job done, in almost every instance that I’ve come across, this often hinders the movie. It is obvious that Joshua Miller truly cares about his source material and his story; however, while watching The Cook, you can easily get the impression that he may have been overwhelmed and stretched a little thin. But as I stated, you can also see his heart is in the right place. I just wonder what could have been if the director was able to focus squarely on directing or editing.
The one positive thing that I personally took away from this psychedelic mess of a movie is that the “Cook” is truly a compelling villain. It’s not something we haven’t seen before, check out Randy Blythe or Tony Todd in The Graves, but Wade Blevins is obviously having a great time with his role making him the stand out of the entire film. The mystery to whether or not his character is supernatural in nature wasn’t much of a mystery for me at all, maybe other viewers will be more ensnared by the goings on, but it shouldn’t take much to figure that out, either way, solid performance that contains very little dialogue. The other actors do well enough with their roles, some worse than others of course, but none of the main cast turn in performances worth complaining about — some of the supporting cast however may be a different story,
If you are fan of the gory and grotesque much like our Mr, Dreher or myself, you are going to be disappointed with this outing. It is gory at times, blood is thrown all over the place; but, I had quite a difficult time pinpointing the source of origin of the red stuff various times throughout the film. The Cook treats us to a pretty vicious head stomping in the final act, but the effects are extremely low budget, appearing to be made out of paper mache and chicken wire cobbled together and filled with raw meat and food coloring for effect. The number of wasted opportunities throughout the movie make for a bit of a chore to get through to the end. It is disappointing that more time could not be devoted to the effects so at least our eyes could be rewarded. From the look of things, however, that clearly was not the case. I’ve seen high school drama productions with better makeup effects than what’s on display in the film. There are millions of tutorial videos on YouTube that could be a great tool for aspiring makeup effects artists and for this film as well. I need me some gore in these types of horror films, and The Cook’s uncredited makeup effects artist does not serve it up.
Another low budget offense The Cook is guilty of is atrocious sound design. This movie may be the worst offender yet. The music is so loud and the dialogue so quiet at times and then completely switched in the next shot of the very same scene that it became quite disorientating. Every blood splatter, stab, lick, cut and slash all seem to use the same “slurping” noise. I began counting the times the noise was utilized for my own amusement. It’s in the high 20’s. I’ve tried different set-ups when viewing these films, thinking that maybe it was my own personal audio configuration that may be the issue. It wasn’t. That’s how the sound design is in The Cook. I literally switched from laptop to T.V., from earbuds to straight up headphones and nothing helped. Maybe sound isn’t important to some, but I’m a stickler when it comes to this issue. If I can’t understand half of the dialogue due to overbearing music, how am I supposed to get myself involved with the characters or story?
The Cook is a film best suited for audiences who like things trippy, flashy, and strange. While all in all, I did not like the film, here are a few redeeming qualities here and there: the performances, the killer, and a cameo from HNR superfan Kayla Overton. Unfortunately, the visuals are such an assault on the senses that I can only recommend watching the first few minutes so you can catch Ms. Overton’s cameo, which, her makeup is the best done in the film.
The Cook (1.3 / 5) available from Brian Damaged Films January 3rd, 2017.