Broil review – Jonathan Lipnicki serves up murder in fantasy thriller

A short-order cook is hired to poison a monstrous supernatural patriarch at a sadistic family dinner in Edward Drake’s stylistic but overstuffed offering

Power games ... Timothy V Murphy in Broil.
Power games ... Timothy V Murphy in Broil. Photograph: Signature Entertainment
Power games ... Timothy V Murphy in Broil. Photograph: Signature Entertainment

Last modified on Thu 11 Feb 2021 06.02 EST

Any Gen Xers happy to see one more pop culture touchstone bulldozed will appreciate this ambitious but overstuffed fantasy thriller in which Jerry Maguire’s gorgeous poppet Jonathan Lipnicki appears as a murderous autistic chef with an encyclopaedic knowledge of toxins. He plays Sydney, a short-order cook hired by two scions of the fearsome Sinclair clan to dispatch the patriarch August (Timothy V Murphy) at a family dinner. This monster, with a caustic Ulster accent and a grin like a dagger flash, has cut a deal with his children to take custody of his granddaughter Chance (Avery Konrad) so he can inculcate her into the full extent of her powers.

The Sinclairs must be invited over the threshold, need daily transfusions of human blood, and sprout tumours after being exposed to too much daylight – so are they vampires? An “oversimplification,” according to Sydney. Beginning with Chance at home and being expelled from school, director Edward Drake tries to ground Broil’s mythology in a more original, domestic setting. But his preamble is off-puttingly cumbersome, full of insinuated but vague backstory that becomes even harder to navigate when the film drops into nested flashbacks and flashforwards to usher in the murder plot. Drake works hard stylistically, but his reagents – Twilight-style young adult and high-gothic horror – threaten never to mix.

Eventually, the dinner gives the narrative some focus. From the head of the table, August ferrets out his poisoners and – turning the dial up on a performance that already began close to 10 – organises a set of sadistic after-dinner games in revenge. The power games and grandstanding far more cleanly impart the family’s place within the dark metaphysical backdrop Drake had been awkwardly pinning up behind them. His flair for maintaining a rancorous grand-guignol atmosphere – without resorting to too much gore – hints at a promising future in genre cinema, provided he can keep things simple.

Released on 15 February on digital formats.

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