The Evil Within is not the umpteenth videogame exploitation, instead it’s the result of a project that has taken place over the course of 15 years, going through an unbelievable amount of troubles and tragedies.
Directed by Andrew Getty (July 1, 1967 – March 31, 2015), millionaire and philanthropist, the film was Getty’s personal project to symbolise his own addiction to meth, embodied by the character of Dennis Peterson – masterfully portrayed by Frederick Koehler.
Dennis is a special-needs young man who has had terrible nightmares throughout his whole life and, once given a mirror by his older brother John (Sean Patrick Flanery), starts talking to his reflection which tells him to kill his loved ones in order to “be normal and get smarter”.
I stumbled across this movie by chance, while distractedly searching for something quick to watch on Amazon. And my attention was grabbed by the troubled production history: Getty set out on a quixotic journey in 2002, when he had drafted the script for a horror film – which he also entirely self-financed – loosely based on a series of nightmares he personally had when he was a kid.
Initially titled The Storyteller, this movie benefits from a crew of well-known actors that had no idea what they were getting into. And everyone’s performance reflects the amazement and confusion they were going through while shooting the film. In fact, Flanery is flawless, as well as his fiancé in the movie Lydia (Dina Meyer), at portraying their characters within the film’s dream-like universe.
Yet, Michael Berryman (The Hills Have Eyes, 1977) and Matthew McGrory (The House of 1000 Corpses, 2003) are brilliant in their cameos. It’s unfortunate, however, that their health conditions (Berryman has been seriously ill for years and McGrory passed away tragically in 2005) have slowed down the making of the movie and caused scripted scenes to be replaced.
And, obviously, the untimely death of Getty – from a haemorrhaging ulcer brought on by a long history of recreational meth usage – was the last straw.
With all that said, I was absolutely mesmerised by the quality of the film, in terms of acting, cinematography, plot, scare-factor and so on.
Something that struck me was the good use of narration, which I don’t usually dig and could have been redundant and boring. On the contrary, The Evil Within makes a good use of it, not over-relying on this technique or turning it into exposition.
Also, the practical effects are astounding and, towards the end, one in particular got under my skin giving me shivers. I’m not afraid to say that the scene I’m referring to is the scariest experience I had watching a movie the whole year.
However, Getty’s film is not flawless: some of the CGI utilised in a couple of sequences was realised shortly after the project kicked off (2002), thus it doesn’t hold up very well, making for a laughter rather than a moment of tension.
Furthermore, due to the production issues, I feel like there are a few plot holes which make the story convoluted and hard to follow. Or, perhaps, I just didn’t get the entirety of the film, which is definitely not an easy watch.
Again, the ending – or, better, the last shot after the basement ‘show’ – doesn’t work as it should, thus it should have been removed to make the ending itself more effective.
Regardless, The Evil Within is a must-see experience, which perfectly mixes the director’s vision with an ongoing Twin Peaks and The Twilight Zone vibe. Definitely recommended. If you have got the chance to look it up for free on Amazon, please do it. If not, just rent it for a few pounds. Consider it as a personal favour to Mr. Getty. Cheers!