Quick Hit: What did I just watch?
I am sure that I’ve typed this before, but I’ve fairly active in the film community, at least in a research sense. I am on Twitter (@2featurepreach) quite often, and I like reading other people’s suggestions on different horror films. At one of these points, I came across the suggestion to watch The Evil Within (2017). It stars Sean Patrick Flannery (The Boondock Saints), Frederick Koehler (Death Race, The Circle) and features a horror movie icon in Michael Berryman (The Hills Have Eyes). It was directed by Andrew Getty, but he died during its extremely long production. The film was then put together with pieces of the huge amounts of footage that he shot.
The film follows Dennis, a mentally disabled man who lives with his brother John. His internal monologue starts the film, and we see that there is so much more going on in Dennis’s head than what his verbal abilities allow. He also suffers from intense nightmares. Eventually, John brings a mirror into the home, which begins a cycle of Dennis communicating with himself in the mirror. The mirror Dennis is Legion (yes, from the Bible), and is convincing Dennis to perform horrible deeds. When not portrayed by Koehler, this demonic presence is played by Berryman.
This movie is absolutely off-the wall at times and features some extremely disturbing imagery. I was genuinely freaked out a couple of times, particularly in one opening nightmare that featured someone literally being unzipped and having someone slip inside them like a sleeping bag. This was done with some practical effects, and was devastating. There’s also a person whose eyes get replaced with mouths digitally. It all leads to the dream-like quality of the film, and makes everything get a touch of wrongness.
The camerawork throughout is actually really good, and very inventive. Getty uses mirrors a lot (to reflect the duality of Dennis’s nature) and this creates some extremely trippy effects. It also lends to the aforementioned unreality of it all – one image features Berryman stepping out from behind Dennis’s reflection after being reflected infinitely down a hallway. This is also a fun idea to give the idea of Legion meaning many.
There are, however, some extreme drawbacks to this film. A lot of the script that revolves around John and his girlfriend is terrible. Really, the script feels the need to give John things to do, which includes conversations with a poor psychiatrist. None of these really add anything to the plot – we know he feels guilty and responsible for Dennis from the first moment – just let the man act and stop shoving it down our throats! There’s also some really horrendous, head-scratching moments in dialogue – one ice cream girl literally states people like her because she’s hot, but it’s said so earnestly that you almost miss it. It’s an example of something that probably should have been played for humor, but instead it just lands on deaf ears.
The acting overall is pretty decent, with Koehler getting a chance to really spend a lot of time in several roles. He uses physicality to differentiate his different roles, and it’s a good thing, because the characters are so different throughout. He also makes Dennis appear handicapped without seeming overly limited, which is important in a movie like this. He walks a thin line at times with going too far into the handicap, but for the most part does a good job.
While no one would describe this as a good movie, there are portions of it that are watchable, and the ideas in place are solid. I’m going to give it a “C-“ for its fearsome parts.
For more on this film, check out IMDB.
"All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy"