Sunday, September 03, 2017

The Evil Within Breaks from Reality: A Film Review

Tagline: "You Can't Run from a Nightmare!"

Director/writer: Andrew Getty.

Cast: Frederick Koehler, Sean Patrick Flanery, Dina Meyer and Brianna Brown.

There is an old Latin saying: "de mortuis nihil nisi bonum." In English, "of the dead only say good things." However, this would do a disservice to the reader, when discussing Andrew Getty's The Evil Within. This billionaire's only film took fifteen years to complete, after experiencing: financial challenges, lawsuits and crew changes. The director, himself, would die just before completing this film. What is worse - the director was addicted to hard drugs - meth'. Only thanks to producer Michael Luceri was this title even completed. In The Evil Within, Dennis is doubly handicapped by both mental impairments and sociopathic tendencies. Actor Frederick Koehler plays Dennis expertly. But, the films' weak moral message dampens the enjoyment of the film. More of a thought experiment about altered reality, The Evil Within is only visually impressive and not much else.

It must be hard to piece together a plot when using illicit drugs. Getty's lifelong film endeavour involves Dennis and his discussions with his dark side. Though, in the film's commentary, Getty questions: "what would life be like on the other side of a mirror?" It would not be real. Still, Getty takes the viewer down this imaginative trail, which is full of hiccups. In order to reach the other side of the mirror, Dennis must murder everything from small animals to children. Once brought into the mirror, the lives of Dennis' family and friends are upset and smeared with blood. The finale brings the darker side of Dennis forefront. But, for what purpose?

Frederick Koehler's performance is really exceptional here. He is really tasked with playing two characters: the real Dennis and his evil alterego. These two characters are very different. The real Dennis is mentally damaged, having experienced a brutal fall. Meanwhile, evil Dennis is more intelligent, but very conniving. The expressions and mannerisms between the two characters are very different. Still, Koehler cues the viewer into which character he is playing with ease. His performance is peculiar, because of the characters, and also fully engrossing.

Murder is okay as long as it is used in pursuit of revenge, right? No! And, this viewer did not enjoy the film's moral message, or underlining message. This long time film watcher has noticed that film's with positive moral messages e.g. courage over cowardice are more entertaining than those that support more malevolent messages. Movies about wanton murder and rape can leave one with a dirty feeling, after watching them. Some viewers might also walk away with a creepy feeling, after seeing Dennis stuff his third child victim into a cooler. If Dennis is not murdering folks, he is preparing to practice taxidermy. Or, he is losing his mind while staring into a mirror. It is sad to see how all sense of nobleness is lost at the end of a pipe. None of the characters come off as courageous in The Evil Within. It is really a race to the bottom as writer Getty cannot find any positiveness to instil into his story and its underlining moral message.

And really, the film's entire plot plays out like a thought experiment; what would it be like to live in a mirror's reflection? This type of thinking is unsurprising, coming from a director who spent much of his life trying to escape reality. But, it is not a thought experiment that is really worth basing a ninety minute movie on. Reality is persistent, whether one wants it to be so, or not. Still, it is interesting to see reality blur with fantasy, in The Evil Within. In one sequence, Dennis is trapped within a room of mirrors. There is no way out as he desperately searches for an escape. Another sequence sees Dennis transition from a baby into a killer. These sequences look especially well done, with the addition of special effects. Still, Getty's thought experiment and attempt to escape his own reality are more of a sad display, compared to what could have been.

The Evil Within was released off-the-radar earlier this year. Vision Films released this title on DVD. And, this film fan only just heard of the title, through Rue Morgue's comprehensive coverage, in their 2017 Summer issue (July-August). Tracking down a copy involved reaching out to a specialty Canadian DVD retailer,
Shivers Entertainment. Though, the film is available through several online sellers, in the United States. The film is a bit of a fever dream. Its narration is inconsistent. Meanwhile, its message truly scrapes the bottom of the barrel, with actor Frederick Koehler truly holding The Evil Within together. It is a tragedy to hear of the challenges Getty went through to complete this film. It is even more tragic to read of a director devolving because of heavy drug use. Thanks to his friends, like producer Luceri, the film was completed. Still, The Evil Within never rises above its drug-fueled madness, to deliver a long lasting impression and message.

Overall: 6.5 out of 10.

The magazine that inspired the review: Rue Morgue w/the Evil Within Issue #177

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