Take a Taste of Wickedly Delightful Spoonful of Sugar (FANTASTIC)
Title: Spoonful of Sugar
First Non-Festival Release: TBD
Director: Mercedes Bryce Morgan
Writer: Leah Saint Marie
Runtime: 94 Minutes
Starring: Morgan Saylor, Myko Olivier, Danilo Crovetti, Laura Coover
Where to Watch: Check out where to find it here
This film’s review was written after its screening at the Fantastic Film Festival in 2022.
The excitement of a new job has emboldened Millicent (Morgan Saylor) to interview with Rebecca (Kat Foster) who is searching for a babysitter for her son, Johnny (Danilo Crovetti). Johnny has a litany of severe allergies that require special care along with a series of behavioral issues. Millicent wins over Rebecca when she coaxes Johnny to communicate with seemingly little effort. Overjoyed, Millicent celebrates her victory by allowing herself to fantasize about Johnny’s father, Jacob (Myko Olivier). That isn’t the only secret Millicent intends to keep, as her intentions aren’t as pure as they appear.
Trippy and thought-provoking, Spoonful of Sugar is a wild ride of family horror drama.
What is most exciting about Spoonful of Sugar is how disorienting and imaginative it is with its storytelling. At many points in the film, it is difficult to tell what is real and what is happening within the mind. Oftentimes, there is ambiguity of certain narratives happening at all. This type of approach to horror is one that can be irritating to some but rewarding to others. It’s both whimsical and hallucinatory, which is an odd but winning combination for horror as evident by the satisfying payoff of Spoonful of Sugar.
Much of this is highlighted by Spoonful of Sugar in its commitment to visual surrealism. Throughout the film, the audience is thrown into a psychedelic journey where they are unsure of the reality around them. Bright flashing lights, visions of lust and murder, and bizarre imagery help paint the wonderous and terrifying landscape of the homes in which we are invited to observe. Great editing enhances this visual feast by integrating these moments into more realistic scenes to make it difficult to predict.
Clearly unwell herself, Millicent is pegged as an unreliable narrative from the beginning. This is amplified by her drug usage and her tendency to romanticize the things in her life. She truly believes she is taking the right actions and that she is meant to have a family in the exact way she desires. Embodying danger and indulgence, Millicent represents the dangers of embracing the worst aspects of yourself. This lesson is not what Johnny needs as a child, but it does lead to a rather ironic conclusion for the family.
Johnny’s parents deal with Johnny’s afflictions differently. Julia lacks the control over her household that she desperately craves in her life. From her son beating her to her husband’s illicit affairs and her own self injury, she is aching for some sort of respite. The fact is it is entirely within her reach, she just refuses to accept it. For the most part Jacob seems like the typical adulterous husband, but it becomes clear that he is just an easy manipulated man. From his wife to his son to the many babysitters before, he has a hard time pushing back in any meaningful manner, letting his baser instincts take over in a situation. It’s also clear he wants to tap out from the responsibility of raising a difficult child, specifically one he cannot understand or trust.
While it subverts the typical structure of a killer child horror flick, it does tend to tread the same water many other films before it has done. The recurring themes of motherhood being painful and something to push through are ever present in Spoonful of Sugar. Here, it is visibly seen in Julia’s visible injuries from Johnny. His lack of self-control and her smothering seem to be connected, but the film isn’t as interested in exploring his rationales but how those around him manage his issues for him. The only opportunities he is given agency is when others use him as a weapon or seek validation from him.
Subversive horror is becoming the norm as more conventions are broken down and examined in unique ways. Spoonful of Sugar grapples with heavy subject matter while creating a truly unique viewing experience. Waxing about the pains and perils of motherhood and the disappointment of abandonment, this indie venture isn’t afraid to conjure up interesting and thought-provoking ideas. Dynamic performances, trippy visuals, and a captivating story make this killer kid film one that stands out from the sea of disappointing iterations that have been released over the years. All it takes is one taste for you to take a magical journey thanks to a Spoonful of Sugar.
Overall Score? 7.5/10