Director: Andrew Getty | 96 minutes | Screenbound Pictures | On sale 4th September
Dennis Peterson (Frederick Koehler) is mentally challenged teen who lives with his older brother John (Sean Patrick Flanery). While John struggles between caring for Dennis and maintaining a relationship with his increasingly impatient girlfriend Lydia (Diana Meyer(, Dennis finds a friend in his own reflection in an antique mirror. But in reality, the reflection is soon revealed to be an evil entity (Michael Berryman, The Hills have Eyes) who is more charming, smarter and stronger than Dennis, and instructs him to do horrific thing in order to ‘fix’ his brain. Dennis embarks on a murderous rampage, collecting the bodies in his basement.
The Evil Within, originally titled The Storyteller, is lucky to be released.
Production began a staggering fifteen years ago and not even the untimely death of its director/producer/writer Andrew Getty could stop this movie eventually being released. Getty dedicated the last years of his life to filming this as and when he could. A man of money (he was the billionaire heir to the Getty family fortune), he sank his own resources into the feature as well as using his own nightmares as a basis for the plot. Getty was a user of meth and the images within are perhaps an indication of what he experienced whilst on that drug. Meth would also contribute to his death in 2015.
This film has garnered attention from the likes of The Guardian and The Hollywood Reporter. Or to be more accurate Getty’s story has gained attention, not The Evil Within. This review, however, will concentrate on the movie because it is something quite different. Getty’s efforts on this flick have not been wasted.
The Evil Within’s main character is Dennis (Frederick Koehler), a mentally handicapped teen that is a hindrance for his older, more sophisticated brother John (Sean Patrick Flanery). The use of a character of this nature is gutsy, Dennis is clearly a easily confused, gentle soul that is frustrated with his handicap and the way he is seen and treated by others. Koehler’s performance here is believable and gains sympathy for Dennis, it is one of the many powerful things about the feature. When Dennis starts to ‘argue’ with the taunting reflection in the mirror in his bedroom it allows for Koehler to further his performance and his transformation from harmless brother to twisted killer is breathtaking.
The most chilling example of Dennis’ completing his change into a disturbed killer is when he switches from killing neighbourhood pets to people. The way in which he does this is perhaps one of the most disturbing moments (which is saying something): Dennis abducts a child from a playground. The murder is never shown on screen but his reaction afterwards is and he reasons with himself as to why what he has just done is ‘okay’. It gives a chilling insight into the mind of a murderer and perfectly illustrates how unhinged the individual has become.
Sometimes Dennis’ inner thoughts manifest themselves as his reflection in the mirror and other times as a naked Michael Berryman. The horror cinema legend has an odd appearance at the best of times but to see him naked, painted grey, is quite the sight. There is a scene when Berryman ‘unzips’ Dennis and climbs into him, Getty symbolising the internal takeover of the troubled man.
The movie is packed with some genuinely imaginative imagery that borrows from Cronenberg, Argento and others. It is clear that some of this is from the mind of a man taking mind altering substances although there is so much at work here surely some of it is due to actual talent. The as mentioned ‘unzipping’ of Dennis is one such instance, as well as the opening sequence that is filled with disturbing visions.
What helps this is the mix of practical and CGI effects. Getty seems to switch between the two whenever the mood takes him, with both even being used within the same set piece. There is no doubt he spent a lot of money in these areas of his feature.He could afford to.
Overall this is a movie that will grow in reputation. Its backstory, death of its director/producer and looong production have already earned it a rep, however it is the work itself, now that it is finished, that will hopefully build this into something more positive. It has authentic scares and some strong acting, with imagery that embellishes the insights into Getty’s mind.