The Alchemist Cookbook

Directed by Joel Potrykus

Starring Ty Hickson, Amari Cheatom and Fiji

Self-made chemist Sean, a recluse living in an old trailer in the woods, suffers from pill-popping delusions of fortune. When his manic attempts at cracking the ancient secret of alchemy go awry he unleashes something far more sinister and dangerous.

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  • ★★★★½ review by nathaxnne walker (semi-hiatus) on Letterboxd

    Without alchemy, we wouldn't have what we understand to be the Modern World. The Scientific Revolution (including Chemistry, Physics, Calculus, etc) and Non-Specie Currency Theory are branches of Alchemy in the way that birds are dinosaurs. Alchemy was (and is) much more than that, though, incorporating Ceremonial Magick, Theology, Natural Philosophy and, most importantly, a DIY program of independent inquiry in which there was no central authority, no governing body, to license or approve experimentation, fund projects, etc. Lots of times alchemists would approach venture capital or monarchs/aristocracy for partnerships/assistance, and vice-versa, and certainly alchemists would rate each other on success/failure, but there was no peer-review or open-source data sharing. In fact, alchemists tended to develop idiosyncratic systems which they guarded and cloaked in code and allegory as a means of ensuring limited secrecy. The Alchemist Cookbook had an Alchemy Consultant (as well as a Chemistry Consultant) on set, so gets its Alchemy right. I am neither an expert nor a practitioner, but I spent some time studying the history of Alchemy as part of Medieval/Renaissance Studies and everything here checks out, which is thrilling. Alchemy is practiced not just as an overlapping set of practical methodologies, but as a spiritual discipline, a quest of the soul, ultimately to achieve enlightenment/oneness with deity. To abandon one's alchemickal studies in favor of making deals with demonic entities is moving from one related discipline to another. Elizabethan/Renaissance Wizards/Sorcerers had many highly developed systems for interacting with angels and demons, asking favors of them, attempting to bind them into servitude, etc. Although The Alchemist Cookbook tends to show one as a gateway drug to the other, this isn't necessarily the case, and were you to do so, it would best to be learned and prepared and take as much precaution as possible. Remember: a familiar and a location of Great Power are totally good for working magicks but they might not be sufficient! The More You Know!

    That The Alchemist Cookbook uses this as a means of re-entry to Cabin In The Possibly Evil Woods Folk Horror, a genre as ancient as human storytelling, is more than alright with me. I delight and wonder in it. I really dug this movie and indeed related to it on a personal level.

    All the Bonus Points in the Known And Unknown Worlds for using not one but two Esham tracks to score this film. Never was there a more deserved union!

    Bonus Bonus Points for having an Alchemist in a Minor Threat shirt to symbolify the hxcx nature of independent shoestring alchemickal operations and the dangers of losing yr. edge! X X

    <3 <3 <3 nathaxnne

  • ★★★½ review by Nikolas on Letterboxd

    I wish i could give this a higher rating, because this movie has everything i like, but i cant. I love that the character is a black guy from hood, its so weird that a guy like that does chemistry and magic, lol. We dont get a lot of backstory, what we know is that he has this book, which has some instructions how to do something, and that is what he is trying to do. Also he is living alone in the woods. Its really slow, but i like that. The ending was just average, and kinda different than the whole movie felt. Anticlimactic.

  • ★★★½ review by street on Letterboxd

    Okay I'm convinced; Potrykus is one of the most genuinely exciting filmmakers working today. This is perhaps not as consistently enjoyable as Buzzard, which at times felt crowd-pleasing in a punk-rock-Napoleon-Dynamite type of way, but it 100% takes the cake in the horror dept. and that counts for a lot. Hail Satan, yadda yadda.

  • ★★★★ review by rotch on Letterboxd

    Hoop-Tober #3

    "Wouldst thou like to live precariously?" parece que le preguntó Black Philip a ese comedor de Doritos extraordinario que es Sean, antes del pacto con el diablo más absurdo y divertido que me ha tocado ver en un buen rato.

    Hay dos cosas que me enloquecen del cine de Joel Potrykus, que podemos ver en Buzzard y acá, y que me están convirtiendo en un fan entusiasta y vocal:

    - su habilidad de conjurar (wink) imágenes que logran ser tristes, graciosas y aterradoras al mismo tiempo.

    - su habilidad de encontrar actores muy peculiares para sus personajes más peculiares aún. Joshua Burge en Buzzard y Ty Hickson acá son rotundos tesoros. Imposible que las películas de Potrykus funcionen sin ellos.

    Padre, padre cosa. Y pueden pagar por ella lo que quieran acá. Por favor háganlo, para poder conocer más rincones de la cabeza de Potrykus. Son refrescantemene singulares.

  • ★★★★½ review by danote on Letterboxd

    Hoop-Tober #11

    Me declaro fan absoluto de The Alchemist Cookbook. Buzzard me gustó mucho, pero aquí Joel Potrykus se me hizo a otro nivel. ¡Qué gran director de actores! ¡Qué grandes son sus soundtracks! y no solo eso, qué gran manera de incorporar la música a sus películas, casi siempre es música no diegética, que empieza aparentando ser diegética y que en algún momento de la escena nos sorprende enseñándonos que todo está ahí, en un cuartito con nuestro personaje.

    Amé el final, ya para los últimos cinco minutos la cosa empieza a tomar forma y parece que será difícil salir con otra sorpresa, pero wow, ese freeze frame está al tiro con los de City of the Living Dead o Invasion of the Body Snatchers. ¡Gran cosa!

    Fue una gran sorpresa ya que tenía un día de enterarme de la existencia de esta película y ni el trailer alcancé a ver. Suelo ser defensor de la piratería, principalmente cuando las películas están disponibles en VOD en muchos lados pero no en tu país, pero aquí vale la pena apoyar la causa. La compré a tres dólares, no es mucho pero es algo. Les recomiendo hacer lo mismo, la compran aquí.

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