THE EVIL WITHIN **** U.S.A. 2017 Dir: Andrew Getty 97 mins
Even the less observant of viewers will know a 2017 release has had a long, tortured path to the screen when it features Matthew McGrory in a bizarre cameo role: best known as Tiny in Rob Zombie’s HOUSE OF 1000 CORPSES and THE DEVIL’S REJECTS, the actor died in 2005. This film is the self-financed, insanely ambitious personal obsession of Andrew Getty, oil heir of the notorious Getty dynasty, who used his nightmares as inspiration and took six years to complete filming (in 2008) before an equally turbulent post-production period.
Inevitably, the finished film is flawed and messy, but it’s also one of the most striking genre releases of the year. Frederick Koehler is extraordinary in an unpatronizing, three-dimensional portrayal of Dennis, a young mentally handicapped man confronted by a malevolent alter ego in an antique mirror gifted him by his loyal brother (Sean Patrick Flannery). This “Other” plays on his deep-seated weaknesses, ordering him to kill in order to “fix” his brain; thus begins the evolution of an unlikely serial killer, beginning with the slaughter of animals and children. Getty tips his hat frequently to the “rubber reality” cycle of 80’s horror, with a constant blurring of reality and nightmares and a succession of surreal images and imaginative in-camera effects – though its core story of a vulnerable young man’s descent into madness is as emotionally compelling as the plight of Norman Bates. Iconic 70’s / 80’s horror bogeyman Michael Berryman lends his intimidating visage, while Kim Darby, star of classic 70’s TV creeper DON’T BE AFRAID OF THE DARK, has a key role as a social worker. It is undeniably weakened by the blandness of Flannery (and on-screen girlfriend Dina Meyer), but its erratic pacing and episodic narrative are in keeping with the disorientating ambience. Full of vivid diversions involving unzipped human bodies, marionettes and fire extinguishers, the film is galvanised by Koehler’s bold, award-worthy performance. Getty’s passion and raw talent outshine the flaws, and this will be his only cinematic legacy: he died at the age of 47 in 2015, his body ravaged by years of meth addiction and his passion project was ultimately completed by editor / producer Michael Liceri.
Review by Steven West