Drugged out horror has a small, if not interesting, history in horror. Golden Era slashers played out like conservative wish fulfilment where young people having sex and doing drugs met awful fates. But drug-infused horror has more often allowed directors to unleash a surreal psychedelic nightmare world on audiences. Gaspar Noé’s Climax was a hallucinatory-trip of a movie while Joes Begos’ Bliss dropped viewers into a neon-soaked world of drugs and blood. Now indie director Luke Momo’s Capsules explores the horrors of addiction with an experimental drug that demands users keep using lest they die.
Four chemistry students studying for exams find a bottle of unmarked capsules when they help a barely coherent old man stumbling through the neigbhourhood. Looking for a high and bored with the same old weed and tacos they’ve been living on, they decide to try out the pills. But soon the effects of the capsules – foaming at the mouth, vomiting, strange visions – take hold. And the friend quickly discover that if they do not keep taking the drug they will die.
Capsules Hints at Potential, Fails to Capitalize Over and Over
From its opening shot, Capsules most immediately recalls retro-horror aesthetics that defined movies like Ti West’s House of the Devil. Not surprisingly then, writer and director Luke Momo adopts the same methodical pace as mumblegore and 90s indie mumblecore filmmakers. This is a stripped down movie featuring a lot of meandering dialogue and an initially directionless story. All of this is fine if the director and story can slow burn to an urgent finale. And Momo teases potential often enough to make Capsules something of a frustrating watch. As characters foam at the mouth, vomit, and perform an autopsy on a still-breathing man, Momo taps into body horror. But it’s a bit like scraping the surface. Momo never follows up on any one moment.
This is a stripped down movie featuring a lot of meandering dialogue and an initially directionless story.
Yet all this potential inevitably repeatedly grinds to a halt. Maybe a low budget limited the extent to which Momo could create a hallucinatory world for audiences. Regardless Capsules always feels like there’s a better movie buried somewhere in its premise. And the winding way in which the story unfolds ensures that the movie feels every minute of its 70 minute runtime. As the final act rounds the corner, Momo takes things in a strange direction that still somehow feels a bit underwhelming. Stick around for a weird post-credits moment.
Capsules Missing Much in the Way of Characters or Logic
In Capsules, Momo and co-writer Davis Browne’s story revolves around chemistry students hanging out, doing weed, and studying. Ryan (played by wrier Davis Browne), Dev (Caroline Potter Shriver), and Maya (Kate Pittard) hear classmate Jasper (Marcus Fahey) keeps ‘wicked’ notes. So the threesome lure him to their study group with the promise of … yes, really good weed. Given the experimental and occasional surrealist nature of Capsules, it’s not surprising there’s little to nothin in the way of character development. In fact, our four protagonists have little in the way of any distinguishable character. This is a small-budget indie effort so the performances, while passable, lack much in the way of range.
…there’s a big leap in logic that happens here.
Arguably, the biggest issue emerging in Capsules is lack of logic shown by its characters and glaring plot holes. The official synopsis refers to Ryan et al. as chem students – and they are in fact studying for something. But even if these are fun-loving, partying students, it’s hard to believe that these characters would try an unmarked drug. After all, they found the pills on an incoherent, stumbling man. In addition, there’s a big leap in logic that happens here. One character pretty clearly and early in the movie offers a plausible explanation for why they struggled breathing after trying out the drugs. Why all four characters decide that they need to keep taking the drug or they’ll die is addressed. Capsules just requires that you buy into their logic.
Capsules Fails To Take Audiences on the Drug-Fueled Journey It Promises
Capsules is a stripped down mix of experimental and psychological horror that occasionally teases potential. You can see where Momo wants to go and, in a handful of scenes, he gets there. But Capsules mostly misses the mark as its budget falls short of Momo’s vision. Rather than an uncomfortable, hallucinatory finale, the thriller limps into confusing territory. Poorly defined and unlikable characters mixed with plot holes and hard-to-ignore lapses in logic drag things further down. Indie horror fans may find something appreciate; everyone else can pass on this one.