Review: Spoonful of Sugar

Directed by Mercedes Bryce Morgan and written by Leah Saint Marie, Millicent is taking a semester off from her studies to take care of Johnny, a sickly, mute child with severe allergies. His mother, Rebecca, is an author and his father, Jacob, is a carpenter. Starring: Morgan Saylor, Kat Foster, Myko Olivier, Danilo Crovetti and Keith Powell.

Starting out on the right foot is key for horror flicks, giving a taste of what’s in store sets the tone and draws you in. Spoonful of Sugar does that by kicking things off with a nicely creepy note. The way that Leah Saint Marie’s writing plays out keenly explores vulnerability in a number of different fashions. Firstly with the mysterious Millicent (Morgan Saylor) who immediately is shrouded in a need for protection and constantly trying to please, then there’s the mother who can’t seem to make her child happy in Rebecca (Kat Foster) and the typical example of Johnny (Danilo Crovetti), forever cooped up inside. At first, this works so well and the different relationships between each of the characters is intriguing but as it enters its second half, it slowly becomes overtly apparent that the especially interesting elements of this story are being kept secret.

That in itself is not unusual of course, holding the deeper, darker reveals until later in the story but they’re simply kept too late. A lot of time is spent instead on the cliched battle for attention and an abundance of sexual tension. The film itself does have a surprisingly sexual overtone, which has mixed success. The direction sets up the right atmosphere, the cinematography pushes on the story’s darkness and the pacing is done well but the progression lets it down. It ultimately leaves you feeling dissatisfied that the details to its ending are all elements that could have vastly improved the story, if they were given the time to truly be explored rather than used for shock tactics. It’s even more frustrating because the ending scene itself is a great horror moment but adding a bigger context and exploring the characters’ backgrounds beforehand, could have pushed it further.

A great horror performance is creating a character that you can never fully trust and Morgan Saylor’s Millicent achieves that particularly well. While the tone and atmosphere push you towards an exceptional sympathy for such a vulnerable young woman, Saylor manages to always keep that instinct burning in the back of your mind that there’s more to her. The performance really taps into the creepy side, playing with a false naivety and sporadic oddity. Kat Foster initially gives a perfect portrayal of a closed perspective and privilege but as time goes on it’s surprising how hard she throws herself into this performance. It’s genuinely intense and overflowing with a constant battle frustration and a desire to be loved by her child at any cost. Danilo Crovetti serves some Damien style vibes with a cold, unpredictable intensity, adding another element of volatility. Myko Olivier gives us the typical husband, there’s not a lot to say about it because he’s a cog in the machine of this story rather than an active participant.

Spoonful of Sugar is an absolutely solid horror flick but sadly, it hints at the capability for so much more that it only scratches the surface of, that it becomes frustrating. Mercedes Bryce Morgan’s direction and Nick Matthews’ cinematography capture exactly the tone, texture and atmosphere that the story calls out for. It’s filled with a great cast and Morgan Saylor and Kat Foster really knock it out of the park for creating complex women characters, who feel capable of anything both good and bad. It’s simply such a shame that it constantly hints at further layers to the story but only reveals the absolute minimum about them in its very ending, almost calling for a prequel akin to Orphan: First Kill.

Verdict: ✯✯✯| 6/10

Streaming exclusively on Shudder from March 2

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