M.L. Miller here! As I go into my tenth year of reviewing horror films, I wanted to go back to the beginning and repost some of the films I loved. Moving on to Year Seven of my year-long Retro-Best in Horror I’m recapping the Countdown beginning officially on October 1, 2016 and going through September 30, 2017. I have posted Best of lists in the past, but a lot of those old reviews haven’t seen the light of day since they were first posted many moons ago. Being the OCD person that I am, I have also worked and reworked the list, looking back at my own choices and shifting them around, and even adding a few that I might have missed or looked over from the year in question. So, if you think you know how these lists are going to turn out, you don’t! Don’t forget to like and share my picks with your pals across the web on your own personal social media. Chime in after the review and let me know what you think of the film, how on the nose or mind-numbingly wrong I am, or most importantly, come up with your own darn list…let’s go!
Released on April 4, 2017! Available On Demand, digital download, & DVD here from Vision Films! Also streaming on Tubi!
THE EVIL WITHIN (2017)
aka WHIPLASH, THE STORYTELLER
Directed by Andrew Getty
Written by Andrew Getty
Starring Sean Patrick Flanery, Dina Meyer, Frederick Koehler, Michael Berryman, Francis Guinan, Brianna Brown, Kim Darby, Matthew McGrory, Tim Bagley, Randy Sklar, Jason Sklar, Don Stanton, De Anna Joy Brooks, Greyson Turner, Linda S. Nelson, Kelly Mantle, Alan Gale
Films like Richard Stanley’s ISLAND OF DOCTOR MOREAU come to mind when one thinks of a troubled shoot. But in terms of sheer batshit craziness, nothing tops the arduous and tragic journey of Andrew Getty’s THE EVIL WITHIN. It’s definitely debatable if THE EVIL WITHIN is good cinema, but I found it utterly fascinating from the behind the scenes horror show to the movie itself.
First, a little backstory to put this film into context. Andrew Getty was the grandson of billionaire J. Paul Getty and seemingly a lost soul and a big dreamer. Andrew dreamed of making his own horror film and set out to do it in 2002. But the film was plagued with budgetary problems as his billionaire grandad cut him off long before the film was even envisioned. Still, Getty was a good salesman and convinced some decent bigger name actors to participate. The film went through many starts and stops, some feuds grew between Getty and his cast and crew, and Getty was even sued by a production assistant. Getty ended up finishing filming in 2008, six years after he began, but then obsessively worked on the special effects and editing (which he did himself) for many more years. Sadly, Getty died in 2015 of a stomach ulcer caused by his ongoing meth addiction which added to the behind the scenes tribulations. Producer Michael Luceri, one of the few people who had withed with him from the beginning of the shoot, finally finished editing THE EVIL WITHIN and released it in 2017.
The story focuses on a young mentally handicapped man named Dennis (KATE & ALLIE’s Frederick Koehler) who befriends a monster who lives in his mirror (THE HILLS HAVE EYES’ Michael Berryman) and is tempted by the monster to kill those he loves. Along the way, there is a side plot involving a relationship between Dennis’ brother John (Sean Patrick Flanery) and his girlfriend Lydia (Dina Meyer) who decide to live together, oblivious to Dennis’ weakening sanity. The film attempts to get into the mind of Dennis, vividly showing his dreams, fantasies, and nightmares and how they begin to spill out into the real world through his horrific actions.
There are a few videos on Youtube depicting the horrific backstory of THE EVIL WITHIN and I’m sure it’ll be the subject of SHUDDER’s CURSED FILMS series sooner or later, but the thing is, despite all of the background drama and destructive antics of the director, the film turned out to be quite mesmerizing. The rumor is that THE EVIL WITHIN is highly autobiographical as it depicts a lonely boy having difficulty connecting with the world and eventually has trouble distinguishing dream from reality. The film communicates that in an imaginative and transfixing manner by using all sorts of practical and CG effects that seem to be very ahead of its time, considering when the film was made. Getty communicates a completely unsettling and engrossing experience as Dennis drifts through abstract and surreal landscapes, mirror worlds, and defies all kinds of sense and physics. Say what you will about THE EVIL WITHIN, but there is nothing like this film out there.
Given that this was a film made over a decade or more, of course there are all kinds of continuity errors and the plot sort of drifts around aimlessly until the nightmarish ending. It is as if you are actually inside of a madman’s dream and can’t get out. If you’re looking to pick some nits, there are plenty front and center. Some characters end up being played by other actors later in the film as they had left through the years. Scenes just kind of end and then the plot repositions back in reality. This is an upside down, loopty-loop of a film that really makes no sense in places, but Getty is able to get some fantastic performances from Berryman and especially Koehler. The fact that in his dreams, Koehler’s Dennis doesn’t have his mental handicap is a heart-wrenching detail that really hit me hard. It’s a very thoughtful and humanistic way of telling this story from Dennis’ perspective and shows an interesting understanding of the human soul by Getty. There are dramatic moments that I feel Getty nails and it does seem like, occasionally, Getty was able to create some truly unique and imaginative stuff though his own warped sense of reality.
This is one of those films that feels like it was made by a madman. And I guess it was. While there are many problems with it, THE EVIL WITHIN itself is watchable and downright entrancing at times. The level of nightmare Getty conveys in his massively intricate and monstrous imagery really has no peer. There are true horrors tucked away in THE EVIL WITHIN that I will never forget such as the monster unzipping the back of Dennis and burrowing inside of him or that giant spider/crab creature, or the wonderful opening scene in the desert with the carnival fright ride. This is the closest thing to being trapped inside a drug-induced nightmare as it gets. Maybe Getty got lucky and was able to pull a rabbit out of his hat with this messed up film. Maybe it is genius. Maybe Getty’s life was such a nightmare and he just had the right kind of madness to convey it onto the screen. Either way, THE EVIL WITHIN should at least be seen once. It is a truly unforgettable and tragic piece of cinema that deserves some honor and recognition simply for the arduous journey THE EVIL WITHIN took to being made.
THE 2016-2017 COUNTDOWN!
#31 – THE EVIL WITHIN
M. L. Miller is a wordslinger/writer of wrongs/reviewer/interviewer/editor of MLMILLERWRITES.COM. Follow @Mark_L_Miller.
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I wanted to love this film so much but it never clicked completely for me. Being aware of the backstory, I was looking for a massive trainwreck but it wasn’t as “bad” as I was expecting nor as enjoyable as I’d hoped for. However, going in with that mindset didn’t help my viewing experience. I really need to revisit this film at the right time, soon, and give it another try. I have a feeling an in depth documentary about the production would be fascinating and an overall great documentary about the passion, struggles and determination of ‘indie’ filmmakers.
Absolutely. I’ll bet if they do a second season of CURSED FILMS, this would be one of them that they look at. If you haven’t seen it yet, you definitely should check out LOST SOUL which focuses on Richard Stanley’s futile quest to make THE ISLAND OF DOCTOR MOREAU. It definitely focuses on the themes you listed.
Yes, Lost Soul, exactly what I’m talking about. That was a great one. I hope you’re right about a potential Cursed episode, it would be great to get this film more exposure and hopefully they could add it to the film to the channel as well for the horror crowd.