Broil (FrightFest 2020) review – twisted supernatural drama that wants to be cool

By Alix Turner
Published: October 24, 2020 (Last updated: February 13, 2024)


Lavish teen-based melodrama about growing up in the middle of a dynastic coup. And dinner. I’d rather have one or the other.

Broil is an odd one. Directed by Edward Drake and written by Drake with Piper Mars, it doesn’t seem to know whether it’s about the teenagers or the grown-ups, and indeed whether it’s for the teenagers or the grown-ups. Let me see if I can explain.

Broil is all about a rich family, the Sinclairs. Young Chance (Avery Konrad) thinks the family is so rich she can get away with anything, but after her mother, June (Annette Reilly), is called to the school one too many times, Chance is sent away to stay with her eccentric grandfather August (Timothy V Murphy) to learn some manners and become a “real Sinclair”. During her stay, Chance starts to think more deeply – and worry – about the nature of her family, and what her future holds.

After a time, Chance’s parents and other family members start to assemble: apparently the appointed time for a traditional dinner is nearly upon them. Following some squabbles about whether August is still fit to lead the family, June decides to take over and hires a chef for the dinner who is knowledgeable with regard to poisons.

So in one corner, we have a good old coming-of-age story; while in the other there is a tragedy brewing, made from family politics. Like a meeting with no clear agenda, it is often tricky to follow.

It’s pretty clear Chance doesn’t want to fit in, though she’s seduced by it all, and may not get much choice. The other person who gets no choice is Sydney, the chef (Jonathan Lipnicki); not quite a gun to his head, but near enough. He is likable and clever, and clearly has some autistic traits (or stereotypes? I’m still not sure): no eye-contact, sharply observant, and talks with ease about his chosen subject. All of these characteristics have clearly been chosen for the sake of plot devices (as autistic traits in films generally are), but I can see why they were, and Lipnicki plays the role uncommonly well.

The production, set, costumes (and above all, table settings) are all sumptuous, with decadence flowing like milk and honey. Cinematographer Wai Sun Cheng laps it all up like he’s filming a period film palace, but now and then gets carried away with spinning and close-ups as though making a music video. Perhaps this is intended to reflect the chaos, but it just felt chaotic, as a viewer. Hugh Wielenga’s music only added to that, unfortunately: sure, it was suitably melodramatic, but there was way too much of it, and often too loud, covering the dialogue several times.

And then what was it all about? I can’t even tell you what type of people this family was made up of: the question cropped up in the film a number of times, but the answer was either evaded or declared to be “not that straightforward”. Whether they were demons, angels, vampires, or some variation, they certainly came across as selfish and amoral. So perhaps Broil was about shaking off the heavy legacy of family, going forward with some hope. I’m not sure. I can’t tell you why it’s called Broil, either.

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