Spoonful of Sugar is a strong dose of psychological horror that succeeds at being more than one terrifying flavor.
Published on April 19, 2023
Rating 3.5 /5
A lot is going on within Spoonful of Sugar. There's a hallucinatory aspect of getting lost in the medication. There's a longing for family that turns desperate when not bred organically. There's even some commentary on the nature of raising children and the detrimental effects of when it goes awry. Despite the sloppy assembly and how the film bounces around its various messed-up characters, it’s surprising how much comes together into a decently twisty, provocative horror film.
The film’s central protagonist is Millicent (Morgan Saylor), a college student getting a job as a nanny. She has family problems she doesn’t care to discuss and a mental condition that requires therapy and drugs. They seem to do the trick and keep her balanced. It makes her an ideal candidate for caring for sheltered kid Johnny, the unstable child of the book-busy Rebecca (Kat Foster), and the bitterly frustrated Jacob (Myko Olivier). With Rebecca spending most of her time off promoting her books on sex, Millicent becomes more of the matriarchal replacement for Johnny. She gets him to come out of his shell, quite literally, by making him take off his comforting space helmet when outdoors.
With Johnny being kept on strict medication and allergy rules, there are elements of exploring how children with problems are ignored by their parents and seek comfort in others. With Millicent longing for a family of her own, there’s a contemplation about lives denied and ruined from past traumas. There are also the aspects of longing for love in more ways than one, especially with how Jacob feels teased by his wife, which shoves away intimacy in place of physical acts of sex. While Rebecca only offers passive pleasure, Millicent seems committed to being a more devoted wife in the way she offers up sex, understanding, and better parenting.
The pacing is on-point for this type of psychological horror, dipping in and out of its surreal characters. Millicent becomes a compelling character for being in a state of drugged-up healing, trying to conceal the darkness of the past and form a better future. Since she can’t form one of her own, she tries to steal away a family who doesn’t care about their bond. All the sex and abuse soon bubble into a vicious and shocking climax, revealing a greater darkness of how some families are held together less by love and more by a desire not to be hurt again. Sometimes hurt seems to be part of the equation, placing a far darker tone in this picture.
Yet it almost feels like there’s more to this picture than what it smears about. The premise is strong enough that it makes one long for a longer film, where the more extraordinary aspects of the characters can be further explored. It’s interesting how Rebecca and Jacob bring up how they believed Johnny had autism with his violent fits and inability to communicate. It’s unfortunate that Johnny more or less becomes a prop of parenting, making a better case for indoctrination than children being heard.
Spoonful of Sugar is a strong dose of psychological horror that succeeds at being more than one terrifying flavor. Plenty is going on within its narrative to make one think more critically about parenting, medication, therapy, and sex. It’s also incredibly well-shot and paced perfectly, quickly wrapping the viewer into this warped world of finding some semblance of love. While some horror films would fall back on reducing a messed-up family to a simple premise, this little horror film shoots further and becomes a far more entertaining piece of horror.
Mark has been a professional film critic for over five years and a film lover all his life.