This was one of those rare rental experiences when I believed the blurb on the box about how great the movie was and the blurb was right. I even found it at Blockbuster, which was never one of my favorite video stores. I can tell you about all the elements of Cookers that appeal to me, but I can’t rationalize to myself why I actually enjoy watching a movie about psychotic tweakers. It’s just a good movie.
It helps that the house where they’re squatting may be haunted, and that the “ghosts” we see are pretty unnerving. The acting of two of the three leads is way better than average for indie films. Brad Hunt, who plays Hector, the leader of the little gang, is now recognized as an excellent actor in any genre.
None of the characters are likeable, yet I didn’t really want to see them harmed. Best of all, one of my favorite horror movie rules is exemplified: never say the phrase “the rest of my life” when you are appearing in a horror movie, because it’s a magic incantation that insures you won’t live through the movie.
Hector and Dorena (Hunt and Cyia Batten) steal a bunch of pharmaceutical grade pseudoepehdrine from some bad dudes and hole up in an old abandoned house to cook it up into meth. This is to be their final big score, their get rich scheme to get them to retirement on a Caribbean island. Unfortunately, they like their own product a bit too much.
Hector is a nutty ex-con who may have survived a murder in his youth. Dorena has abandonment issues from her own childhood, but because she is the actual cooker, she is assured that Hector won’t leave her. Hector’s old buddy since juvenile hall, Merle (Patrick McGaw), helps them out for the promise that he will get a cut of their fortune. But will any of them make it out of the old house alive?
The movie keeps the cast and the viewer in a sort of time slip. You never know whether it is day or night because Hector hangs black drapes on the windows. It is established early on that he never knows what day it is, either because he is high or crazy; it’s possible, I believe, that ghosts can mess up a person’s sense of time as well. Of course, we never really know whether there are any ghosts.
Weirdest of all, there is no indicator of when in history the story takes place. There’s no reference to popular culture other than 50s country on the radio and vehicles that look to be from the 60s or 70s. The clothes could be from anywhere from the 60s to the 00s, although one of the “ghosts” appears to be in Victorian garb despite being the grandmother of one of the characters.
I don’t know if the ambiguity regarding the time in which the film is set is intentional, but it effectively makes me feel the isolation and disorientation of the characters. The topper is that all three of the leads are unreliable narrators. They’re traumatized by life, strung out, paranoid and tripping.
I have a new respect for makeup and set design now. I don’t believe you could film in a house as run down as the one in the movie without endangering the actors and crew. I’ve seen some shitholes in my life, but it has to take years to get a house in this condition naturally, and I can’t imagine the work it took to make the place look like it did artificially. Also, living in the south all my life I’ve seen plenty of people who look like the characters in Cookers, but I don’t know how you make people look like that on purpose. They must not have bathed for months. They are all completely believable as greasy dope fiends.
I hope for Brad Hunt’s sake that he didn’t take method acting too far during the filming of Cookers, because it’s probably the most effective portrayal of a speed freak I’ve ever seen. I swear, they must have filmed all the scenes in order because he even seems to lose weight as the film goes on.
The “faces of meth” photo campaign should serve as a deterrent for meth use, but evidently it doesn’t because I got carded buying Claritin D a couple of weeks ago, and I even had to ask for it at the pharmacy counter because they keep it behind the counter rather than just putting it on the shelf. Cookers should be part of the drug education program in schools. Surely nobody could watch Hector’s trip into madness and then decide to try this drug. The director, Dan Mintz, could have left out the ghosts and this would still be a horror movie. However, it’s very worth a watch for ghouls like me.