Being an East Coast boy, I never came across many methamphetamine users, but we did have this one guy who used to come to parties and free base cocaine in the corner by himself. Looking back on it now, I guess he was a pretty tragic figure, but, back then, we thought he was a riot. He’d sit there, licking his lips like they were coated with honey, and stare out into the darkness, convinced that the cops were waiting in ambush for him. I never quite understood why someone would pay good money to spend a night alone and crippled with fear, but, then again, I don’t understand a lot of things people do. However, I will say that after seeing Dan Mintz’s Cookers, I’m pretty certain I’ve come as close to understanding what it’s like to be a meth addict as I’d ever want to.
Hector (Ryan) and Dorina (Batten) have stolen a high quality batch of ingredients for methamphetamine from Hector’s former employers. The pair are understandably concerned about being found, so Hector cuts his old friend Merle (McGaw) in for a share of the profits in exchange for a hideout where Dorina can “cook” the product. Merle sets them up in an isolated and abandoned farmhouse that used to belong to his grandfather, and Hector and Dorina immediately begin their operation, with the goal being to make as much of the stuff as they can so that they can fund their “retirement” from the business. However, as addicts are wont to do, Hector begins to use the stuff almost as fast as Dorina can cook it, and the combination of the meth, lack of sleep, and general paranoia has Hector on edge. He boards up the windows, blocks all of the doors, and sits in wait, pistol in hand, for anyone who dare come to take his stash.
Soon Merle is sucked into using the drug, and, before long, the trio are at each other’s throats. Hector is convinced someone else is in the house, and his paranoia proves infectious, as Dorina and Merle begin seeing and hearing things as well. Is this all a concoction of their drug addled minds, or is it something more?
Cookers is a low-budget psychological horror film in the vein of Session 9 and The Blair Witch Project, in which the horror is pretty much confined to the character’s minds and we are vicariously frightened as a result. The scares are very effective as long as they remain off screen, but Cookers makes the mistake of showing us a bit too much toward its conclusion, which is the only thing that kept me from giving this one five skulls. Still, this is a mesmerising film, and the performances, especially from the amazing Brad Hunt, are superb. Hunt’s portrayal of Hector is a revelation, and is easily amongst the best performances I’ve seen in a film, and I mean any film, this year.
Director Dan Mintz also shows that he can goose horror out of the most innocuous things, and had me practically jumping out of my skin on more than one occasion. There’s one scene in particular in which Hector, Dorina, and Merle are kicking back with a bottle of booze, some mescaline, and, of course, meth, where a scare is inserted that was so effective that it made me scream aloud (much to my wife’s amusement). The film looks great, as well, with wonderfully eerie lighting and shadows that lend to the overall sense of dread, although I do have to point out that, on more than one occasion, there’s a “cameo” from the boom mic that sort of takes the edge off.
Viva guerilla cinema!
The DVD from Ardustry is a bit of a letdown, as the only special features are a quartet of trailers for other Ardustry releases, as well as the original trailer for Cookers. I’m hoping that this film will get the audience it deserves, however, and we’ll see a better, more stocked version somewhere down the pike.
This is an impressive movie in almost every regard. It’s a film that is scary without even trying, which is why the climax proved to be a bit of a letdown, but this is still one of the best independent horror films to come along in quite some time, and is buoyed further by an Oscar caliber performance by Brad Hunt. This is the sort of movie that has “cult-classic” written all over it, so go pick this one up now so you can say you were in on it from the beginning.