“What makes you think the ride is over? What makes you think it’s ever going to end?”
On the surface, The Evil Within looks like just another horror movie. However, delve deeper and you’ll discover something genuinely fascinating. Before I can even get to the film, I must briefly mention its problematic production. Written and directed by Andrew Getty, The Evil Within took 15 years to complete. The film was a personal project of Getty, who largely self-financed the estimated cost of four to six million dollars of the production. It was released in 2017, two years after Getty’s death in 2015.
The film was inspired by the childhood nightmares of Getty. Filming began in 2002, and the film was shot largely in Getty’s own mansion. He was heavily involved in the creation of many of the elaborate sets, animatronics and other effects. The production went through a number of issues, including; budgetary complications, lawsuits and conflicts with the cast and crew. Getty continued to work on the film for many years after, creating his own special effects and trying to perfect the film. He died in 2015 due to an alleged addiction to Methamphetamine. Unfortunately, this was before the film was finished. With the colouring and editing not completed. Producer Michael Luceri, who had also edited the film, finished it.
15 years in the making and 3 deaths later, The Evil Within finally released. The real question now is, was it worth the wait?
It begins with a sophisticated, well-spoken sounding young man narrating a reoccurring dream that he has. He’s a child at a lacklustre carnival with his mother and there are no lines, it’s the best day ever. He sees the haunted house ride in the distance and summons the courage to try it out. It’s short, not scary and generally disappointing. He continues to explain that he has been having constant, twisted nightmares. He feels a darkness slowly beginning to invade his mind and body; he’s struggling to separate the dreams from reality.
There are a couple of more unsettling scenes that demonstrate our characters slow descent into madness. Then, it is revealed that the knowledgeable narrator is the inner voice of a young man named Dennis who suffers from multiple disabilities. Dennis lives with his brother John in a huge house. John discovers an antique mirror that had been in storage within the property. It is the same mirror that Dennis had recently had a nightmare about. As Dennis has the biggest room in the house, John wants to store it there. This angers Dennis but John protests as he believes it could be worth something.
That night, Dennis slips into an even deeper psychosis. He sees an alternative version of himself in the mirror. This Dennis can stand upright and is extremely manipulative towards him. Over time, we see Dennis struggle to resist his persuasive alternate personality. He’s impressionable due to his mental illness and is coerced into doing some terrible things.
Meanwhile, John struggles with the care of his brother as well as attempting to have something of a normal life. His girlfriend Lydia wants to get married but John has continuously avoided commitment. He maintains that he doesn’t want Dennis to be put into a state-run hospital even when social services recommend it. He’s clearly dealing with an inner conflict of his own. When it is revealed what that is, it explains a lot.
If nothing else, The Evil Within is a compelling look into the warped mind of troubled man. It is quite impressive that considering what it went through, it manages to tell a relatively coherent story. In fact, it is unlike anything that I have seen before.
It does drag a little in places but I cannot deny that I was thoroughly intrigued to see how it would all play out. Its biggest strength is undoubtedly some of its visual ideas which are more often than not successfully surreal and nightmarish.
The Evil Within is as bizarre as it is amusingly-twisted. It isn’t hard to believe that Getty was potentially high when he crafted it. Still, he showed a great natural artistic capability that a longer career would have honed. It’s a huge shame that this will be the only work we see from a genuinely creative individual.
It is by no means perfect though. In fact, it feels very uneven as a whole. It has a number of flaws but I highly recommend that you give it a watch.
I must praise Frederick Koehler as Dennis. His acting is incredibly believable throughout. There are a number of scenes in which he has a back and forth with the alternate version of Dennis in the mirror. He transforms from one to the other with such ease, it’s very impressive. Unfortunately, the other performances in the film are a little wooden.
The film made me feel bad for Dennis. He’s mentally disabled and even though he isn’t without blame, John is equally as responsible. He refuses to put Dennis into professional care for selfish reasons and is constantly neglectful.
Also, it was pretty crazy to see Matthew McGrory in a movie considering he passed away in 2005.
Finally, I cannot end this review without praising the effects in the film. The animatronics and stop motion that were used are well executed.
This is a hard one to rate as without its compelling history, I might rate it lower. However, its background adds a special atmosphere that cannot be denied.
The Evil Within