Movie Review : In the Kitchen With... (2016)
The movie business is often criticized for being safe and formulaic. Every big production is a major financial risk and investors all want to turn profit whether the product is entertaining or not, so there is a lot of cliché and formulaic bullshit out there. It's part of the game. Including elements people already appreciated in other movies are a semi-legitimate way to assure a certain turnout. If you want to see wild, risky and sometimes disturbing material, short films are what you should look at. They're hard to see outside of film festivals and special screening, but unlike big productions, they rarely disappoint. In the Kitchen With..., the second Paul von Stoetzel short film I had the pleasure to watch this month, sure didn't. It was wild as shit.
In the Kitchen With... is only six minutes and a half long and it is based on a short story by John Rector, who's work I frequently featured in the past. Jack (Sam Landman) is a blue collar dad who seems like he's given up on life. He likes to crash in his sofa in the evening and tune-out out the voice of his wife (Julie Ann Nevill) reminding him of his responsibilities with whatever's on television that night. Except that what's on television that fateful night is really fucking weird. Rachael Ray (Madison Olimb) is cooking and eating something so vile, Satan himself couldn't have possibly come up with the recipe. What the fuck is going on? What does it mean? Let's get to the good part.
The story of In the Kitchen With... is straightforward, but not necessarily simple. There are several underlying elements to it that make the movie terrifying. The story of In the Kitchen With... is straightforward, but not necessarily simple. There are three layers of reality in this movie: responsibilities (real life), escapism (the cooking show) and Jack's anxieties (his hallucinations). The first is symbolized by his wife begging him to do his chores; the second is symbolized by television, which constantly offers a convenient and seducing reality for Jack to run away to and the third is symbolized by the gory meal Rachael Ray is cooking on screen. There three realities usually have clear boundaries: one is a person, the other is an object and the third happens inside Jack's head. What makes In the Kitchen With... scary is that these boundaries collapse and, for a brief moment, you have no idea why. The movie offers you somewhat of a cookie-cutter explanation at the end but no real resolution, which keeps the tension alive.
Before I leave you, let's discuss how great Madison Olimb was in this. I mean, she had the fun part but she was TERRIFYING. She looked like what Joy Magano would've looked like if he biopic had been directed by Dario Argento rather than David O. Russell. In the Kitchen With... doesn't necessarily have a lot to go on aesthetically because it's so short and straightforward, but that vision of hell created by Olimb and directed Paul von Stoetzel is a sight to behold. The mundane and the reassuring collide with the greater unknown in one character's transformation. Not sure if In the Kitchen With... is still being screened, but remember that title and query Paul von Stoetzel's Killing Joke Films about it. it's like nothing you'll ever see at your local theater and it'll stick with you looooong after you're done.