Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

"A handsome setting, gorgeous costumes by Nataliya Fedulova and a sumptuous score by Hugh Wielenga give this film a real touch of class." | Photo: Courtesy of FrightFest

Chance (Avery Konrad) is at a difficult age - too old to be contented in an ordinary school when she knows that, as a Sinclair, she's different, but too young to understand what the weight of her family name really means. After she gets in trouble for biting another girl in her class during an argument, she's sent to stay with her uncle August (Timothy V Murphy), who plans to teach her how to live up to that name. But Chance's family is deeply divided, and over the course of one night, centuries of conflict are about to come to a head.

It's not really a spoiler to say that Broil has supernatural themes, given that it screened as part of Frightfest 2020 and drops multiple hints within the first ten minutes. The Sinclair family are not vampires, they insist, but they seem to have a lot in common with them, and at one point the name 'Dracula' is dropped. Uncle August has dominated this family for as long as anyone can remember, but Chance's mother (Chilling Adventures Of Sabrina star Annette Reilly) wants that role for herself - and has multiple reasons to hate the old man. With this in mind, she hires (and blackmails) a young chef (Jonathan Lipnicki). August suspects at once. there are wheels within wheels here. The chef just wants to survive the night.

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Centred around a dinner party, Broil might remind viewers of their own uncomfortable festive family meals, yet with every conflict, every petty grudge nurtured for vastly longer periods of time. The meaning of the various glances and silences, never mind the conversations, are lost on Chance, who is just coming to terms with the fact that the regular blood transfusions she receives are not for the purpose she was told they were. The chef, however, is uncannily quick to grasp the various developments around him. August is intrigued by this bright young man. Is he looking for an heir, or a sacrifice?

A handsome setting, gorgeous costumes by Nataliya Fedulova and a sumptuous score by Hugh Wielenga give this film a real touch of class. There's also excellent cinematography by Wai Sun Cheng, who subtly distinguishes the Sinclairs' world from the mundane one and perfectly captures those tones associated in the artistic traditions of Europe with the powerful or the otherworldly. The result is a film in which any lover of cinema will find some pleasure even if the plot doesn't appeal to them. This is a little thin in places and it takes some odd turns that don't gel well with the bigger picture. Given its pretence of puzzle-perfect organisation, viewers could be forgiven for feeling confused. Scenes focused on teenagers also sit awkwardly alongside the different dynamic of the older adult drama. As so often with this type of subject matter, the style outweighs the substance.

Full of high Gothic drama and psychological games, Broil is more interested in grotesque ideas than gory displays. It's a little too clumsy to stand alongside the greats of occult cinema, but there's much to recommend it, especially for those with less seasoned palates.

Reviewed on: 25 Oct 2020
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A bored girl is sentenced to live with her draconian grandfather, August, after a violent incident at school. Locked inside the sprawling Sinclair Estate, she begins to question the source of her family's immense wealth and power.

Director: Edward Drake

Writer: Edward Drake, Piper Mars

Starring: Johnathan Lipnicki, Avery Konrad, Timothy V. Murphy, Annette Reilly

Year: 2020

Runtime: 90 minutes

Country: Canada


Frightfest 2020

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