There’s probably a great horror movie about people on drugs while they’re being haunted or stalked by something. Unfortunately, Cookers just isn’t it. It has a terrific premise: people cooped up in a meth lab, which is what might be a haunted house, while getting high on their own product, but ultimately comes up short.
Hector (Brad Hunt) is trying to get away from some drug dealers by cooking up a huge amount of crystal meth with a large quantity of pseudoephedrine which he stole from them. So, he and his girlfriend Dorena (Cyia Batten) hole up in an abandoned house near the town where he grew up. Not wanting anyone to see him, he enlists his childhood friend Merle (Patrick McGaw) to bring them supplies. Of course, in addition to cooking up meth, Hec and Dorena are also sampling their product, and quickly get Merle using it, too. After a few days of cooking, Hec and Dorena start hearing noises and seeing things, like shadows that might actually be people hiding in the house. And there’s an upstairs window that just won’t stay closed. Hec begins sealing up the house, putting curtains over all the windows, boarding up the windows and doors, even padlocking all of the doors. From there, the tension keeps building until the group’s collective paranoia becomes too great.
Cookers is pretty low-budget (and it shows), but it often uses it to its advantage. The entire movie takes place in the abandoned house, which is a great setting for a horror movie. And once Hec starts covering up the windows, the only sources of light in the movie are candles, lanterns, and the sunlight that peeks in through the holes in the curtains, which leaves shadows everywhere in the house. The constant darkness keeps everyone on edge as they start seeing things that aren’t there. Or at least, shouldn’t be there. I do also have to give credit to the performances. There’s just three characters for almost all of the movie, so getting good performances from all three leads is important; any weak spots would be exposed too easily. In particular, Brad Hunt is very good as Hector. He is, from what I understand, very accurate in portraying a paranoid, potentially violent, tweaked-out meth-head. As the movie goes on, Hec becomes increasingly unhinged, as the lack of sleep, frequent drug use, and fear for his life start taking their collective toll on him. Cyia Batten gives a vulnerability to Dorena, suggesting that she isn’t the kind of person who really belongs in this kind of world. Her back story, at least what she shares of it, is downright heartbreaking.
Unfortunately, the whole of the movie is somehow less than the sum of these parts. Despite the a great, well-used setting and strong acting, I just didn’t like Cookers as much as others seem to. I’m not really sure why, but I think it feels like it takes time to get moving, and when it does, I feel like it doesn’t really go anywhere. I get that drug users and dealers tend to be unpleasant people, and it’s to the movie’s credit that it doesn’t try to make Hec likable, but this is still 90 minutes with people who almost completely lack redeeming characteristics. Maybe I’d have liked it more if the movie had somehow been more specific about what exactly is haunting the characters; is the house actually haunted (Merle subtly suggests it’s the setting of an unsettling story he tells which sets Hec and Dorena on edge), or are the visions they’re having just the sum of their own troubled pasts, too much time on their hands, and near-constant drug use? This movie is by no means bad, as I’ve said above, there’s a lot of good things in it, but I just felt disappointed by it. For example: early on, Dorena shares with Merle what Hec has told her about his past, except Merle, who’s know Hec since they were 12 or 13, has no idea what she’s talking about. Hec swears the story she’s saying isn’t what he said about his family. And then the movie never brings any of this up again. Did Hec lie to Dorena about his past? Or is she so messed up at this point that she can’t remember what he’s told her? For some reason, I found this scene in particular pretty creepy, but it just gets dropped.
At the very least, even if you don’t like Cookers, you can’t deny that it’s effective in one way. If you’ve ever had any doubts about the effects of drugs (especially crystal meth), this movie will scare you the hell away from them. It also documents the physical toll they take on your body very well. At one point, Dorena loses a tooth, and begins bleeding profusely from her mouth. It’s just too bad that the rest of the movie isn’t as scary.