“Spoonful of Sugar” – A Surreal, Trippy Exercise in Dysfunctional Families [Review]

What happens when you take an extremely unstable young adult, add the world’s most dysfunctional parents, and throw in a little LSD just to spice things up?  The result is Shudder’s latest original movie Spoonful of Sugar.  Starring Morgan Saylor (Homeland), to call this movie “trippy” is something of an understatement.  Its narrative is about as fragmented as the characters’ sanity, and it’s very much a mixed bag, just like everyone’s emotions in it.

New Nanny
The film introduces us to our protagonist, Millicent (Morgan Saylor) as she’s going on a job interview with Becca (Kat Foster) to be the new babysitter for her young son Johnny.  The boy has a laundry list of allergies and is nonverbal, to which Millicent claims she’s working on a thesis (which she’s not) and that this fit is perfect.

She plays awkward but sympathetic really well.

Right from the beginning, there’s an immense tension present, in almost every scene that Millicent is in.  It’s as if she doesn’t know how to act around normal humans, and the more we learn about her, the more true that turns out to be.  Saylor does a great job of portraying a character who has issues and is potentially dangerous, but also very sympathetic.

Through her frequent visits to the psychiatrist, we learn that she’s been prescribed LSD to combat her trauma, something that has been used in the past and can be extremely effective for those with PTSD, particularly veterans.  However, her dosage seems to be too high, resulting in random hallucinations that are actually done pretty accurately.

LSD is a hell of a drug!

A common mistake a lot movies make is that they assume visual/auditory hallucinations are always some imagined person who isn’t really there. Sometimes, it’s something as simple as seeing a small object move a little bit that shouldn’t.  Or seeing a drawing of a person start dancing.  And to the film’s credit, it portrays that really well.

New Family
Millicent comes off much like an Annie Wilkes or a Pearl; someone who is so desperate for acceptance that they ignore boundaries, but you can’t help but feel for them on some level, at least in their earlier days, which is where we are with her.

But the film decides that one off the rails character isn’t enough and gives us Becca, the best selling author who is extremely protective of Johnny and jealous when he does so well with Millicent.

Becca probably sees a lot of herself in Millicent, which is why she’s able to see through her, but also feel very threatened.

In any other instance, Spoonful of Sugar would be just a cross between The Hand that Rocks the Cradle and Single White Female (which we’ll get to).  But Becca proves that she can give Millicent a run for her money in being incredibly overly reactive and unstable, to the point of crossing boundaries and committing horrific acts of violence.

So because Becca is willing to go to these places, it almost reinforces to Millicent that that’s just what you do.  And to us the audience, it leaves us unsure of which of these two women to “root for” because they’re both just as bad as each other, and both just as likely to end up in prison.

New Wife
As Millicent navigates her own wants and desires in life, it also includes her sexuality.  We get the unfortunate sense that she had been abused in the past, and so part of her being a nanny to Johnny isn’t just about her trying to replace his mother.  She also wants to replace Becca as wife to Jacob.

Jacob is all too eager to start sleeping with his son’s babysitter, as clichéd as it.

She even does her hair like Becca and quickly moves to seduce him, which only makes Becca resent her even more and escalate their conflict further.  But even with how she comes on to Jacob, it’s clear that she doesn’t understand social cues or the “rules”, but rather is imitating what she’s probably seen in movies and going way too far too soon with it.

Spoonful of Sugar seems unsure whether Millicent is a tragic victim or a violent villain or both, and that seems very much intentional.  It features a lot of twists and turns, including more than a few WTF moments.  That being said, some of the creative choices it makes seem bizarre, like the goal was to throw as many crazy scenes at the wall as possible and see what stuck.

In a weird way, the “trippy” arthouse scenes feel like there’s either too many or not enough for the tone the movie was going for.

It’s by no means a bad movie, but its narrative structure and pacing are a bit all over the place.  Then again, given the film’s portrayal of LSD use, that’s probably very much the point.  So if you’re into movies that make you question what the hell you’re watching, give it a watch!

What did you think of
Spoonful of Sugar? What are some of your favorite trippy horror movies?  Let us know in the comments!

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