The Evil Within is the first and only film from writer, director Andrew Getty. The film follows a mentally handicapped thirty year-old man named Dennis (Frederick Koehler), and tangentially, his older brother John (Sean Patrick Flanery). Dennis is haunted by his dreams, where a nefarious presence played by Michael Berryman, seeks to torture and ultimately possess him. The nightmares quickly become reality as the evil presence communicates to Dennis in his waking hours through his reflection in a creepy antique mirror that his brother John has thrust upon him. His manipulative reflection quickly instructs the befuddled protagonist to commit heinous acts to escape from his nightmares and show the world he is smarter than they think.
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David found this movie by browsing the horror section of Amazon Prime Video. Watching the trailer convinced me that this movie was going to be an entertaining train wreck; my favorite kind of train wreck.
I wasn’t that far off. The film suffers quite a bit from the terrible and, at times, pretentious script. However, there are some really great and disturbing moments, and commendable acting throughout.
The highlights of the film are the many scenes with an impressive mixture of practical and visual effects. For example, the opening nightmare sequence features the evil presence unzipping Dennis’ back and climbing into his body. This is done with a mixture of stop-motion and makeup that is truly disturbing in a way that CGI and jump scares just can’t touch. Also, lots of camera movements and optical effects are pulled off in a way that shows the first-time filmmaker had flashes of genius.
Frederick Koehler did really well with his portrayal of the mentally handicapped protagonist. He adhered to Tropic Thunder’s admonition to “never go full retard”. The Gollumic switch between Dennis’ voice and that of Legion in the mirror is creepy and well acted.
Michael Berryman, the perennial horror favorite due to his unique appearance is used sparingly, but to good effect throughout the film. You might recognize him from The Hills Have Eyes or One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest.
The scenes with Sean Patrick Flanery (Powder, Boondock Saints) and Dina Meyer (Saw, Starship Troopers) were probably the worst parts of the movie. The dialogue-driven subplot of John and Lydia’s relationship suffers most from the weak and, at times, confusing script. The film in these scenes steps into The Room territory. As with the Room, even these scenes can be entertaining, if only because of the ham-handed exposition mixed with the non-sequitur word vomit.
Overall, the good balances with the bad. There is enough going on visually that is genuinely interesting and creepy that you can overlook the sins of its storytelling.
If You Like Experimental Independent Horror Movies, Check Out Our Review of Kuso
Spoilers: The Rundown
The film opens with a dream sequence where a sesquipedalian narrator, Dennis, opines about the nature of dreams, storytelling, and reality. The David Lynchian visuals lead to the appearance of the “Cadaver” that attacks the Dennis and literally climbs into his skin.
When Dennis awakes, it is revealed that unlike the wordy narrator, in life, he is mentally handicapped. We are introduced to his brother John and Lydia as they all enjoy a picnic together. After the picnic and a visit to Dennis’ crush at the ice cream store, John surprises Dennis with an antique mirror. John insists that the mirror “really ties the room together,” but Dennis is very upset that John moved his belongings to get it in his room.
Soon, Dennis’ reflection starts talking to him and compels him to begin killing. First, Dennis kills small animals, and then eventually is convinced to kill children and adults.
Meanwhile, John is dealing with commitment issues with his girlfriend Lydia (Dina Meyer). They argue about whether or not Dennis should be sent to a mental institution, and the decisions impact on their long-term relationship. Both of them are clueless throughout the movie to Dennis’ activities as a newly minted serial killer.
As Dennis continues to follow the wishes of his evil doppelganger reflection, it begins to gain more and more control over his actions. The evil presence identifies itself as the same group of demonic spirits from the Bible called “Legion.” Eventually, the reflection swaps places with Dennis and Dennis is trapped in “the dark place.”
The film ends with Dennis murdering pretty much every main character and hollowing out their bodies to perform a macabre puppet show for his brother John, where it is revealed that Dennis’ mental handicap was the result of John attacking him when they were younger and a resulting fall down the stairs. John ends up being overwhelmed with guilt (?) and kills himself with a gun. Dennis is captured immediately by the police and put into a mental institution. However, Dennis’ real prison is being locked inside his mind while Legion controls his body in the real world.
Is The Evil Within Worth watching?
This is definitely a hard one to recommend because it’s not for everyone. However, it is free to stream if you have Amazon Prime. Andrew Getty made a truly interesting film. I was sad to hear that he died two years before the movie was released because I think he had genuine promise as a filmmaker. So if you are interested in films that toe the line between genuine auteur genius and film school hackery, give this one a try. The special effects will probably hold your attention through to the end. Otherwise, steer clear.
If you want to watch this movie please consider renting or purchasing the movie through this amazon link to help us support the podcast.