Teenager Chance Sinclair (Avery Konrad) has several challenging medical conditions – she can’t be in sunlight for more than ten minutes and needs a daily blood transfusion – and the kind of hair-trigger temper and doesn’t-know-her-own-strength reflexes that gets her kicked out of an upscale school When it’s tactfully suggested that her family might be vampires, she responds that they’re just rich … and, later, any attempt to tag the clan with ‘the v-word’ is met with an airy statement that it’s more complicated than that, and indeed so it proves to be in director Edward Drake’s Broil – which he co-wrote with Piper Mars – where it turns out that patriarch August Sinclair (Timothy V. Murphy), whose aliases include Samael and Dracula, hasn’t exactly been following the rules set down for his kind, prompting a slow-burning palace coup that plays out in unexpected ways.
Structurally ambitious to the point of tripping itself up a couple of times, Broil intercuts the story of Chance’s discovery of how weird her family really is with that of the Chef (Jonathan Lipnicki), an odd fellow who is at once a cullinary genius and some sort of vigilante assassin and is coerced by Chace’s parents June (Annette Reilly) and December (Nels Lennarson) into serving up a special Halloween family feast for a gathering of the tribe at which he is supposed to poison August (who is only vulnerable to a very limited range of ingredients). It’s a grim, intense, delicately comic horror charade – dominated by an effortlessly sinister and interestingly Irish performance from Murphy – which hauls in a parade of Sinclair relatives (that was the name of Jesus’ family in The Da Vinci Code) to sit around the table and be bitchy, strange or murderous, with May (Alyson Bath) coming close to being an actual vampire.
Also dragged into the long evening are a pair of baristas (Jenna Berman, Megan Peta Hill) and a restauranteur named after a Scooby-Doo character Freddie Jones (Lochlyn Munro) – it seems they’re on scene to serve as hostages, but they all have other things to add to the combustible mix. In cutaways, Chance wanders into a darkzone that could be Narnia – she seems to reach it via a closet – and talks with an enigmatic woman (Abby Ross) who knows what’s going on but won’t come out and say so, which is a lot like the film’s narrative method. It creates an interesting world and hints at the history of its monied monsters, but sometimes loses focus in its switching POVs and timelines – but, in the end, this is a compelling, strange, seductive entry in the field of gourmet horror. Lipnicki’s CV always stresses that he was the kid in Jerry Maguire – but it’s more relevant to this that he was in The Little Vampire – I last saw him in a rubbish action film, Altitude, and he’s exponentially better here than he was in that.