The Alchemist Cookbook follows an anti-social young man, Sean (Ty Hickson), who secludes himself deep in the woods. As he experiments in alchemy, he decides to call upon a demon for assistance. With his psychotropic medication empty, Sean's hold on reality begins to slip, and he is unsure if what he is experiencing is a series of hallucinations, or the demon unleashing its hell upon him.
The Alchemist Cookbook Review
The Alchemist Cookbook is a lesson in what is possible with a virtually non-existent budget. With one setting, two actors, and limited dialogue and effects, this film is able to achieve so much. But it is by no means a flawless expose in the realm of cinematic horror.
Our lead, Sean (Ty Hickson), does a fantastic job of carrying the film practically on his own. Other than the rare and brief visits from his brother Cortez, Sean is the only guy on camera. It is an underrated challenge to hold a film entirely on your own, but Ty does an admirable job of just that. His odd behavior escalates at the perfect pace, to the point that it is disturbingly realistic. His performance makes you question if it's his meds or a demon.
While the parallel of greed and its consequences is often what trails the moral fiber of a film surrounding alchemy (and this film definitely does that), the other character study delved into here is that of social anxiety and seclusion. Even for those "desperate" to escape the bars of a capitalist government and the aberrations of social norms, a total solitary state is more harmful on our psyche than most any other condition. Humanity can endure a lot when they are enduring with others. This film follows that logic by showing us what happens to the solitary.
The film does drag at times, in fact, most of the time. The pace is consistent, but at a lurch that requires more energy to stay focused than one would normally like. I would imagine sanity-draining boredom would ensue when out in the woods all by yourself, and that unfortunately happens to the viewer as well. However, somehow, it manages to retain your interest, especially when Sean decides to full commit to this demon idea. The sounds and peripheral shots of something lurking in the trees is enough to keep you hooked to the end.
The last couple of minutes of the film are anything but understandable. I asked "why?...how?..." multiple times for different reasons throughout the closing minutes. It hurt the satisfaction of having seen something special, in my opinion. The recipe had mostly wholesome ingredients, but there just wasn't quite enough flavor and it wasn't cooked evenly to the end.