1bl15’s review published on Letterboxd:
This was my first Potrykus film, and it resulted in me hunting down nearly all his work within a week (still looking for Ape) and me liking to frantically adoring his audio visual progeny.
Alchemist Cookbook feels like the most mature film to slither out of Potrykus' wheelhouse and trades his long time collaborator in for the excellent duo of Ty Hickson and Amari Cheatom who have great chemistry and manage to keep a story with a heavy focus on isolation anything but meandering.
The bulk of the film hinges on Hickson's performance to make or break the film and I'm nothing but impressed. Especially in some of the more out there scenes he come across as genuinely unhinged, fragile and/or suffering from several conditions which impair control of his body.
I'll avoid spoilers in this review, so my next point might read a tad vague. In my opinion this movie might touch on many issues of black culture, all be it more indirectly than many of its contemporaries. As in, you can (choose to) extrapolate some of the factors that have led the protagonist to his isolated desperation. But as is often the case in a Potrykus film, how much of this is due to his loner protagonist's own choices or the failings of society is open to interpretation.
A much more muted approach to issues which for instance the recent Candyman incarnation was hitting audiences over the head with at times, but no less poignant in the issues it hints at. That's one of the film's key strengths, and in case you worry, no it doesn't interfere with the (psychological) horror, if anything it layers it in a stealthy way.
Alchemist's Cookbook kept me intrigued and in suspense nearly from the start, but I felt my investment wobble near the very end and would have given it half a star more if it had ended just a few seconds sooner. It's my single gripe really.
The very ending is an homage to another film (avoiding spoilers) I fear the director prioritized his love for cinema over ending his own narrative. Viewers lacking that context, might find it a cheap or tacky move.
While I'm very much aware Potrykus could probably give less that half a bloodfart about pleasing the audience, I feel like Alchemist Cookbook is the closest he could get to something that's commercially viable for a larger audience, but the ending sort of shoots itself in the foot.
None the less, this movie led me to become a fan of Potrykus' dorito dusted, mountain dew sweating filmography so I'm willing to look past this gripe, and I urge anyone who hasn't checked out his work to do so ASAP.