The Alchemist Cookbook

The Alchemist Cookbook

There are some interesting concepts in The Alchemist Cookbook but it feels half-baked. I don't know much about writer / director Joel Patrykus, and I don't mean to cast aspersions on him, but this film feels like that old writer's adage about how just because something makes sense in your head doesn't mean it makes sense on the page (or to your audience).

The Alchemist Cookbook is about Sean (Ty Hickson), who lives with his cat Kaspar (Fiji) in a trailer in the deep woods, near a lake. Sean is doing chemistry (that's as specific as I can really be) and listening to assorted cassette tapes and hanging out with Kas and occasionally his cousin (?) Cortez (Amari Cheatom) shows up with food and supplies. Sean has a leg brace and is apparently on some kind of anti-psychotic medication. Eventually he just starts doing magick instead of chemistry and contacts a demon to whom he offers his whole body (?) so when the demon finally comes, it wants what it was promised.

But like, what is he actually doing? - Way too late in the game he tells Kas that he was gonna get enough gold to have a mansion in the woods where they could be left alone to eat Doritos and Little Debbies. So I guess he was attempting to make it through chemical means before shifting to alchemical / magickal? That should be clearer overall, but also the fact that Sean is taking meds, combined with how we just see him sort of tinkering / fucking around, derails the idea that he has A Plan of any kind.

The leg brace and the cat are also not really very important. They're just essentially set-dressing to give Sean the appearance of defining characteristics. Theoretically the writing and performance should do that and both the brace and the cat should be the keys to major dramatic or plot moments. Normally these things wouldn't stand out so boldly to me, but this film is so intentionally sparse that everything feels significant and as it turns out almost nothing is.

The performances are pretty good though. For my money, Amari Cheatom is the stand-out. Cortez feels natural before all the supernatural shenanigans kick in and afterward he gives more of a flamboyant and stylized performance.

I also hated the final shot, though I'm assuming it's mean to be an homage. EDIT: I couldn't remember what it reminded me of the entire time I was writing my review. It was, seriously right on the tip of my brain's tongue (so to speak), but I got it: 1981's Lew Lehman trashterpiece The Pit! This is the exact same ending as The Pit!

With a little conceptual shoring up and some editing, this could really have been something I dug into but as it is, The Alchemist Cookbook barely held my attention. Great title though.

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