Imagine mixing the basics of the hit 90s psychological thriller The Hand That Rocks The Cradle with a creepy kid, some perverse sexual kinks, and some trippy psychedelic horror. This week’s latest release on Shudder, from director Mercedes Bryce Morgan, seems to mix several different familiar tropes into what looks like a bit of a twisted thriller. Spoonful of Sugar finds a potentially disturbed babysitter with secrets and a growing LSD habit caring for an equally disturbed child whose parent may have their own secrets. To date, only a handful of reviews are circulating out there so this is an under-the-radar option.
Millicent is a strange young woman – a student and orphan – who’s recently started using medical-grade LSD under the care of her therapist. Opting to take a term off from her students, Millicent finds a unique babysitting opportunity with a strange family. The boy, Johnny, is selectively mute and suffers from several allergies and illnesses. According to his mother, his homemade astronaut suit is a necessity to protect him from potential allergens. But when Millicent shares some her LSD with Johnny she sets off a chain reaction that threatens to reveal her dark secrets – and maybe some of the family’s secrets as well.
Spoonful of Sugar Makes Up For a Basic Story With Wonderfully Weird Execution
Consider Spoonful of Sugar to be an hallucinogenic twist on the The Hand That Rocks the Cradle. Writer Leah Saint Marie twists this basic setup from the 90s psychological thriller into something weirdly unique. But its premise still borrows the basic concept – two women fighting to possess the same child. Plenty of other ideas make their way into Spoonful of Sugar while leaving the story itself threadbare. On one hand, Spoonful of Sugar explores Millicent’s sexual awakening while also touching on the exploitation of Millicent by the various men in her life. Yet Saint Marie only scratches the surface on this idea. There’s also Rebecca’s penchant for finding illnesses in her troubled son. Even that theme feels undone by the thriller’s admittedly chilling twist. So there’s lots of ideas here, just not much of an actual story to hang them on.
Though Spoonful of Sugar is a consistently suspenseful thriller, there’s bits of dark humor from start to finish.
In spite of its relatively thin story, Spoonful of Sugar is never dull. Director Mercedes Bryce Morgan fills her thriller with unhinged characters, dark secrets, and perverse relationships. No one in this thriller can be trusted. This fact coupled with the twisty drug-fueled imagery always casts some doubt on what you’re seeing. And Bryce Morgan captures all of these secrets and hallucinogenic visions with a some impressive and flashy camera work. Though Spoonful of Sugar is a consistently suspenseful thriller, there’s bits of dark humor from start to finish. Without spoiling anything, Bryce Morgan and Saint Marie’s finale reveal is a subtle jaw-dropper.
Spoonful of Sugar Filled With Disturbed Characters, Committed Performances
Yes, Spoonful of Sugar boasts an abundance of style and offbeat atmosphere. And while Saint Marie’s story may seem to meander for much of the thriller’s runtime, it’s ultimately a laser-focused story. Those final moments reflect some careful plotting to bring together its bloody tragedy. Yet at the same time, Spoonful of Sugar feels like its all over the map when you start considering deeper meanings. What are Bryce Morgan and Saint Marie trying to say about sexual exploitation? Maybe it’s all the hallucinogenic drugs. Or perhaps it’s the story’s basic debt owed to dated 90s psychological thriller. But the thriller sacrifices a bigger meaning for a shocking finale – but it’s a well-constructed shocker.
And while Saint Marie’s story may seem to meander for much of the thriller’s runtime, it’s ultimately a laser-focused story.
As for the performances, none come even remotely close to being bad – like the production values everyone acquits themselves just fine. However, some actors feel like they’re playing in very different movies. Morgan Saylor (Homeland) takes center stage as Millicent in what’s best described as a bold and eccentric performance. Keep in mind, Saylor turns in exactly the kind of delivery that this role irequires. And it certainly doesn’t qualify as scene-chewing, but it’s definitely offbeat. In contrast, Myko Oliver offers a much more subdued turn as Jacob that again likely aligns with the screenplay’s goals but feels a bit at odds with the rest of the movie. In what’s arguably the thriller’s most grounded performance, Kat Foster deserves recognition for a powerhouse turn as a mother desperate to protect her son.
Spoonful of Sugar an Inspired and Demented Twist On a 90s Psychological Thriller
Shudder’s latest original release likely will polarize horror fans. Though its basic plot beats familiarly recall The Hand That Rocks the Cradle, Bryce Morgan and Saint Marie ensure it widely deviates in both content and style. Spoonful of Sugar mixes innovative cinematography with eccentric storytelling and subtly disturbing moments. It’s often as mind-bending as the acid trips its main character takes in the thriller. None of the characters will likely elicit much in the way of sympathy. But the final turn Spoonful of Sugar takes shocks as much as any recent horror movie … if you can hang in through the intentional weirdness of everything that proceeds it.