A Fantastic Fest 2022 Review
A babysitter micro-dosing on LSD gets a job caring for a boy who’s allergic to just about everything in Spoonful of Sugar, a new horror film from director Mercedes Bryce Morgan that made its world premiere at this year’s Fantastic Fest in Austin.
Said babysitter is Millicent (Morgan Saylor), a young woman who looks a lot younger than she is. She’s hired by Rebecca (Kat Foster), an author whose son, Johnny (the wide-eyed and innocent Danilo Crovetti), doesn’t talk and barely goes outside as a result of his varied and severe allergies. Rebecca is nervous about entrusting her son to a stranger, but Millicent claims she’s working on a thesis about childhood allergies, making her the perfect candidate for the job. As the film progresses, however, her motives become increasingly murky, as does the exact nature of Johnny’s condition and his mother’s concern.
Spoonful of Sugar keeps us in suspense about Millicent’s real age for an uncomfortably long time, but even when the matter is cleared up, the film finds ways to maintain the unease. Violence and sexuality, inextricably tangled, saturate the house Millicent works in, spilling over into her home life as well. Tensions ramp up as Millicent starts competing for the affection of Rebecca’s husband, Jacob (Myko Olivier), who doesn’t exactly push the young woman away.
Leah Saint Marie’s script does a superb job of keeping us on our toes, shifting our sympathy and trust so often that it’s impossible to know who to root for. Millicent obviously has issues, but so do Rebecca and Jacob. And as the true extent of those issues is revealed, it becomes clear that Spoonful of Sugar isn’t quite as straightforward a tale as it would appear on the surface.
The fact that Millicent is almost constantly under the influence of LSD adds another layer of uncertainty to the proceedings. How much of what she’s doing is intentionally sinister, and how much is born from a drug-induced belief that she’s doing what’s best for Johnny? Morgan is restrained in how trippy she allows her film to become (perhaps a little too restrained at times), keeping things grounded even as the violence and horror escalate. Body parts will occasionally fall off and seem to wriggle across the floor, but Millicent’s micro-dosing is more about dealing with her trauma and staying in control than it is about seeing stars.
Spoonful of Sugar feels like a movie you’ve seen before, right up until it doesn’t. Viewers looking for a psychedelic trip will likely be disappointed, because Millicent’s LSD usage is only one small element of her character’s flawed and fascinating behaviour. The film is unhinged for entirely different reasons, and by the time the excellent end credits roll, you’ll be left wondering what exactly you just watched.
Words: Samantha McLaren (@themeatispeople)