8.3/10
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7 user

To the Flame (2017)

| Comedy, Thriller
Kyle, an aimless film student, becomes fascinated with a dark, disturbed couple while interviewing neighbors for class. Big mistake.

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1 win & 6 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Credited cast:
... Penny
... Dick
... Background Actor (as Gina Sidway)
Nnete Matima ... Background Actor
... Tim
... Prof. Simmons
... Kyle
... Sam
Gina Daniels ... Criminal Expert
... Barb
... Cameraman
Anthony Cochrane ... Classics Professor
Ted Deasy ... Interviewer
Noah Reeves ... Anthony
Kim Grant ... Background
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Storyline

Kyle is going nowhere fast in his community college film class until he stumbles upon his dysfunctional but entertaining neighbors, Dick and Barb, and interviews them for a class assignment. He is quickly pulled down into their dark and twisted world. Written by Pelican Films

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dark comedy | See All (1) »

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Who are the people in your neighborhood?

Genres:

Comedy | Thriller

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2.35 : 1
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User Reviews

 
TO THE FLAME is a study in the irresistible fascination with documenting lurid material as well as glorifying strange and often dangerous characters into celebrity status.
13 February 2018 | by See all my reviews

Kyle (Ari Brand) has been unsuccessful so far in finding a fascinating subject for a documentary for his film class at his community college. He's been filming boring and uninteresting people so far, members of his community until one day he finds a strange couple formed by wheelchair bound Barb (Shirleyann Kaladajian) and intense psycho Dick (Alex Webb) Kyle enlists the help of fellow film students Penny (Jasmine Carmichael) who becomes Kyle's romantic interest and his Best friend Sam (Maul Donte Davis). The weird couple is obviously attractive from an interest point of view as they are both fascinating despite being obviously strange, however it is Dick who gives the strongest vibe that there may be something beyond just weirdness and eccentricity when it comes to these two, something probably more shady and dangerous than Kyle would like to admit. However, despite the obvious signs that Kyle should get away from the couple as fast as he can, his fascination for them keeps him coming back for more. If Kyle doesn't get away from Barb and Dick, he will burn like a moth does when attracted to THE FLAME.

It is almost a cliché that in thrillers or horror films where there's obviously something wrong going on, characters make strange and often stupid choices like staying at the haunted house or approaching strange people who give clear signs of danger. However, in Alex Webb's thriller TO THE FLAME there is a very good reason for Kyle to plunge himself into peril despite the obvious warning signs the couple that has become the focus of his documentary give away. Kyle is an aimless young man attending community college and he's given an assignment to interview people in his town, which is a boring and tranquil place, but also a dead end. Kyle is stuck interviewing chinchilla farmers and coming home to an empty fridge. At class, he hears his professor speak of the myth of Achilles, the great warrior of myth who fought at Troy, who was given a choice: Forsake war and live a mundane life and become forgotten, or head to Troy and achieve glory and immortality. His opportunity arrives when he finds Barb and Dick, a strange couple living in seclusion and keeping to themselves. Barb is welcoming to Kyle and takes to the idea of his documentary, while Kyle is far more aggressive and unwilling to participate. Kyle finds in the couple the perfect subject for his documentary, but also the first glimmer of uniqueness and excitement in his boring and unassuming town. Dick is basically a walking "Warning!" sign, but much like Achilles, Kyle realizes that it is this very danger that will give him a chance at glory, even if he burns in the process. As for Dick, he eventually gives into being filmed by Kyle, he may have tried to keep to himself and not call attention, but his narcissism (part of his psychopathy) pushes him to open himself up to the camera. All psychopaths claim for attention, and he has now someone who gives that attention to him, Dick even has a box that makes cheering sounds when he opens it like a music box. Dick knows that he should allow Kyle to film him (he becomes particularly violent when Kyle uploads a video of him on the internet) as he could be recognized, but the sensation of validation becomes intoxicating and forgets his discipline. The title refers to the mortal attraction of moths to flames, moths cannot help the attraction, and they simply head into the burning light. Both Kyle and Dick are moths, each attracted to the light that emanates from each other, but unlike moths who have no consciousness of their acts, Dick and Kyle are aware of the inherent danger that they both represent. The things that they offer to each other are irresistible: excitement and attention. In this regard, TO THE FLAME becomes a parable of the way that content creators are constantly trying to find the most sensational subject they can find while simultaneously validating and glorifying deranged people into celebrity status. The relation between documentary maker and subject is one of mutual attraction, it becomes irresistible, and also for the audience as Kyle's fellow classmates become glued to the screen anytime they witness new footage of Dick's strange shenanigans.

Alex Webb's TO THE FLAME is darkly comedic thriller that balances its uncomfortable humor with suspense and thrills, the script always stays on point and never deviates from its main subject. Ari Brand plays Kyle with a boyish and unassuming charm whose ambition and desire to leave his small town behind gets the best of him, he can't escape Barb and Dick's orbit anymore nor does he want to, the material he gets from them is too good, but there may also be a personal reason for him to investigate the coupe further. Shirleyann Kaladjian plays the wheelchair bound Barb with more restrain, doing a more disciplined job at hiding the cracks in her psyche, yet her psyche is as damaged as her physique. Jasmine Carmichael's Penny is the one character who keeps her sensitive core and can see right through Barb and Dick's madness, but she's also seeing how Kyle is becoming more and more detached from reality while she stays grounded. Pulling double duties as both Director and actor is Alex Webb himself who plays Dick. The film wouldn't work if Barb and Dick weren't truly fascinating and worthy of being obsessed with, but Dick is a magnetic character who commands attention, he's weird in a way that could be just unassumingly eccentric or unhinged and lethal. Webb provides Dick with an imposing physique who easily outmatches Kyle's smaller and weaker frame. He's sometimes charming and paternal to Kyle but when the switch is on he becomes a wrecking ball. Dick is simultaneously the antagonist and the comic relief as his behavior goes from hilarious to unnerving in a matter of seconds, he is unpredictable at all moments. TO THE FLAME works because its characters make the wrong choices for very understandable reasons.


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