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 (undead) 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

  • ★★★★★ review by claire diane on Letterboxd

    the loss of kaspar: once i had the omen & sign of a black cat dead (called nemo) & after a period of mourning, which was 3 days of crossing the place of his death, laid him to rest in a pyre & later dreamt a premonition of my own death,

    saw & felt myself die, watched it happen, and felt a piece remain, trapped as a slow fading shine of light hung in a void. i think now sometimes of being trapped in my body even after i die & while my hope has been at least when i die i will be nothing, the thought of this other possibility terrifies me.

    but i thought after watching this movie that maybe if the Thrones' wheels are Black Holes large as galaxies (with flaming stars their many eyes), maybe their reach will eventually be long and powerful enough to one day drink our fragment light out of the dead face of future earth back to god where we will pass them singing sonorous holy holy holys ~57 octaves below the range of our hearing.

    &&&

    this movie deeply resonated with me as: live-alone with your cat(s) talk to humans only rarely stare-at-trees lonely chronically tranquilized by anti-psychotics sustained mostly by junk food & songs of import, all repeating in waves you feel helpless to escape as if you are completely being controlled by outside forces and also wildly out of control at the same time,

    when you're born in a vast Maw knowing how much of you has been sold to it before your birth & the nature of the particular Teeth that must bite you (you, specifically) thru no doing of your own, such that bargaining/forsaking your body/embodiment is both utmost terror & greatest relief,

    *

    i don't wanna live & i don't wanna die!!!

    i didn't ask to be born, thx for nothing!!!

    *

    and how tragic and beautiful it is that all sean wants is a safe place to live with his cat with easy access to cat food, gatorade, and doritos & how much i feel that,

    & like how the humblest wants for comfort & safety can seem like a heaven, inaccessible but for supernatural intervention, but the terror-downbeat-nega-vibe that even if they give you nothing in return for what they take, if you non serviam @ god or capitalism then you can be forsaken by society and god & no one might care if you die alone (forever) & even if you speak sometimes only demons will listen,

    & while i don't condone bargaining with demons for safety reasons, belial was maybe an especially dangerous choice & maybe someone like Stolas would have been less malicious. less useful maybe, since i don't think he knows about creating gold, but he could teach you astronomy, botany, and geology. which is not nothing. plus whatever he'd charge you is probably cheaper than actually going to college. (but srsly don't talk to demons. it's just not worth it!)

    'the time is so little, the time (should) belong to us'

    & yet tho i didn't ask for it im still here half-ghost praying near the trees trying 2 b grateful even tho everything can ache, afraid of my consciousness surviving physical death, hoping to be swallowed by the mouth of a galaxy into an endless glut of light & song if i can swing it, some final end to embodiment and separateness because i don't know what else to do or wish for at this point & its nice to think of not being forgotten at the end of all things, but also that would be okay. its the part in the middle that's hard.

    rest in peace, nemo. may angels always tend you, may you have cat food forever & may you never know fear again. & your purring will be a sound far sweeter than any angel's song.

  • ★★★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.

  • ★★★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.

  • ★★★★ 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.

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