Chance Sinclair (Avery Konrad) is always getting into trouble at school, and now has a reputation as a problem child, except at seventeen years of age, she's not going to be a child for much longer. At a party, she smashes a rival's face in with her fists, earning herself a suspension from that private school her parents placed her in, but her grandfather, August (Timothy V. Murphy) has a solution for her bad behaviour: send her to live with him for a year, and he will whip her into psychological shape. But he has an agenda hidden from Chance, for the Sinclair clan have a secret related to their hereditary blood disorder: he tells her parents that now they have given him the girl, they will be free of all their obligations to the family...
So what is going on? It takes probably too long to work it all out, but for those who preferred their horror with more ambition than the average, unironic stalk and slash or chained up females flick, Broil was worth taking a punt on. Directed and co-written by Edward Drake (Piper Mars was his co-writer), it set about trying to build the sort of supernatural world that, say, the Underworld franchise of vampire movies took too many instalments to be stuck in, to the results that nobody but a hardcore group of fans could fathom what was going on, except this little item did that all in around ninety minutes. You did not quite have to take notes throughout the running time, but it was not the easiest movie to follow if you simply wanted a quickie fright flick to pass a Saturday night.
However, if you were more prepared to invest in something that just about justified your time, a real project, if you will, then Broil was an intriguing proposition that assembled a game cast who were well up for a spot of arch Gothic. Chance's storyline was combined with that of Sydney, played by ex-child star Jonathan Lipnicki who judging by this scowling performance had had it up to here with people mentioning how cute he was in Jerry Maguire all those years ago, and his early promise has soured into whatever this possible villain, possible hero was. Actually, he was very good in a purposefully hard to read manner. Sydney is a chef who moonlights as a vigilante, therefore is in a prime position to help Chance's mother June (Annette Reilly) take down August, whose smug Irish anticharm contributes to the sense of a family gone very wrong somewhere, maybe once they became vampiric in the dim and distant past.
Although just as they don't like to say the word Mafia in The Godfather, the Sinclairs resist the word vampire here, as if that is somehow beneath them after being bastardised in pop culture like Twilight: they really are terrible snobs, this lot. But what they most resembled was a corporate boardroom, especially once we reached the dinner party scenes where Sydney attempts to poison August with a very specific recipe that involves at least one ingredient that is truly appalling. Seeing them lined around the table was like watching something like television series Succession in miniature, and though the budget did not stretch to showing us what they actually get up to when they're not scheming, we learn it's to prey on the weak much like your average corrupt big business chain (and even the not so corrupt ones). There was a tendency to get too wrapped up in its own cleverness, and you could understand why some would have no patience for this, but Broil was brave enough to stake (!) out a claim as something that at least gave originality a damn good try. Music by Hugh Wielenga.
[FrightFest Presents and Signature Entertainment present Broil on Digital Platforms 15th February.]