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(The Evil Within)

This, dear reader, is one of those films. You know the type. The ones that drag out the old, oft-debated issue of whether or not one has just witnessed the worst piece of filmmaking in history. This debate is ultimately futile. Consider the fact that there are hundreds of films made every year which never even achieve direct-to-video release, and think on this: these are films that are already in the can, the money having been spent in their making, which the studios have decided are unlikely to even recoup the cost of their distribution and are better off in a landfill somewhere. Doppelganger isn't that bad, because there are things about it which can in fact be quite entertaining, most of them unintentional. I must still give the top spot to Kiss Daddy Goodnight for being the most unrewarding film experience of my life due to its unparalleled torpidity. But make no mistake, this is a stinker. The term "B movie" is often used in cases such as this, and it's a misleading moniker. A "B" is, after all, a passing grade. It's actually pretty decent. This, by contrast, is more akin to having to repeat the entire year.

Somewhere in the world, wherever it is that the regional accent is "drama school reject," a woman is on the phone with an unseen party, loudly complaining about a certain "she" who is going to come into a large inheritance if "she marries that shrink." The "she" in question shows up and commences with the stabbing death of the complaintant, in a knifing unmatched in apocalyptic overtones since the death of Caesar, if we read the musical cues the way in which they demand to be read. The killer is obviously Drew Barrymore wearing sunglasses and a head scarf. Shortly thereafter, Drew Barrymore shows up at the apartment of a young man named Patrick who has advertised for a roommate and has miraculously not gotten the toothless, meth-head fiend he likely would have gotten if this scenario had played out in real life. Counting himself amazingly lucky, he agrees to let this nice young lady named Holly Gooding move in at once, which she does, apparently trusting this total stranger with a one-bedroom apartment more than any young girl should. What Patrick doesn't know yet is that his cute and barely-legal new roomie is crazier than a shithouse rat.

By crazy, I'm not even referring to the earlier murder, but to her professed belief in her evil double who apparently wanders around doing frightful deeds. I once had an almost-girlfriend in high school who tried to convince me that Freddy Krueger from the Nightmare on Elm Street films was someone she actually knew back in Chicago, and that the story ending with "...and hanging in the window, covered in blood, was a stainless steel hook!" had really happened to her, and later had the misfortune to genuinely date another girl who claimed to be able to see spirits in the air and the ghosts of dead grandparents. These are loud, garish warning signs screaming for would-be suitors to run the other way, but alas, no. Patrick sticks by her. Why? Well, one night shortly after moving in, Holly takes a shower and turns the "blood" knob up too high, drenching herself in plasma in a horrendous misfire of a scene. It's clearly intended as a selling point, as Drew exposes herself rather a lot here, but not until after her girly bumps are all red-spattered and icky do we get a look at them, thanks to the incredibly boneheaded director. Seeing the image of a rather inbred-looking monster staring back at her from a mirror, she heads back out and seduces Patrick on the floor of the kitchen, disrobing again in the process as a stage hand repeatedly smacks the window with a leafy stick. She'll dismiss this incident the next day as the doings of her doppelganger. Her psychiatrist, she says, believes in them, too. Got that? Crazy girl has an attending psychiatrist. If you haven't already figured out the gist of things, shame on you.

It turns out Patrick is a hopeful screenwriter who's down on his luck. It's amusingly meta when a shitty screenplay features a guy who writes shitty screenplays. Write what you know, I guess. His writing partner is a chick who bitches and moans and complains and gets pissy for her every onscreen second and never ever dies no matter how much we pray. The three of them attend a Hollywood party in hopes of making some contacts, and Holly succumbs to the music and starts a dance which mostly involves her repeatedly groping herself. She also, should you care, groped herself a few times in the shower, too. Maybe the director thought it would look hot, which it kinda does, or maybe Drew Barrymore just liked groping herself. If I was a chick and a lesbian and had jugs as nice as Drew did at age eighteen maybe I'd grope myself a lot, too. I'll go to my grave without ever learning the answer to that question, but at any rate, the fun is interrupted when wine gets splashed on some woman and Holly freaks out, reminded (by a stupid morphing effect) of her mother's bloodstained body. Past this point, approximately forty minutes in, there are no more bits of Drew showering, stripping or sexy-dancing, and no jury would convict you if you just shut the fucking movie off at this point, even if it was in a theater.

Wait, what? You say that this isn't reading at all like a proper review, but instead like a snide, ranting synopsis of this film's numerous crimes against art? Why, jumping cosmic fuckdicker, you're certainly diddly-doodely right!

See, a film like this defies traditional methods. There is no way to do it the justice it so richly deserves without putting a magnifying glass above it and hoping it'll catch on fire when the sun comes out. Don't believe me? Consider what happens next. We learn that Holly's brother is in an institution after being convicted of killing their father. There was a struggle and the little kid somehow pushed dad out of a window. His body, Holly explains, was never found, because-excuse me; I must steel myself so as not to laugh uproariously and mistype this bit-like, the house was up on a hill, and the body, you know, rolled down it. A thorough police search, lasting probably ten seconds, seven of which I'd guess were spent hanging about the upper portion of the dread hill, turned up nothing. Who here thinks that maybe we'll be seeing dear ole' Dad later in this picture? Let's see some hands!

There have, by this point in the film, been about two billion shots of angels and crucifixes, courtesy of The Beginner's Guide to Film Symbolism. Just saying.

Patrick meets Holly's shrink, who explains that she has multiple personality disorder. Apparently he didn't explain to Holly that her other personality shouldn't be wandering around separate from her in a head scarf. Shortly afterwards he meets an FBI agent who is skulking around the apartments, claiming Holly is a suspect in her mother's murder. He has a horrible, fake southern accent and is constantly yelling even though his mouth barely seems to move-it's hard to tell in the dark. He almost comes across as overdubbed, which is pretty horrifying if you consider that it could indicate he's replacing a performance that was deemed even less adequate. Somewhere in here, Evil Holly attacks little brother with a knife and leaves him looking like a sloppily-made pizza. The cops drag her out of Patrick's apartment, sometime after which he finds a bloody knife hidden in his clothes. He's convinced it's a set-up to frame her, since the police should've found it when they first arrived. I dunno. The cops in this film couldn't find an entire human body at the base of an incline; I'm not willing to bet too much on their competency here, either.

Fortunately for Holly, the man who can only afford an apartment the size of a shoe box is able to scrape up the bail to free an accused murderer-that, or the cops just let her out after making her cross her heart and promise to come back in due course; it's hard to be sure. Her brother, she is told, is all right, as the attack "didn't lacerate any arteries." I guess it just lacerated his stomach, which was apparently stuffed with the contents of a million ketchup packets. He is in a nuthouse, after all. Crazy people do that sort of shit. From here on, the torque in this stupidity vortex only increases. Patrick spots Holly's doppelganger in the street and follows her, only to be confronted by-you guessed it, didn't you?-her long-lost dead dad, who chases him through a tunnel. He narrowly escapes, but Holly is shortly thereafter summoned back to the family home by her evil twin, so that the film may move into a climax consisting of what are undoubtedly the two-count 'em-TWO stupidest plot twists I have ever seen, which occur one right after the other and which may make your brain bleed.

Patrick sneaks into Holly's family home and finds a room full of mannequins wearing disguises representing half the supporting cast of this turkey: The FBI man, a maintenance man, Holly's dad, and Holly herself. He's attacked by Evil Holly, who turns out to be the psychiatrist in disguise (yes, the psychiatrist is evil; I know, it's a shock). This is so appallingly stupid that it requires bullet points:

-His Holly disguise apparently shaves a good six inches off of his height and gives him Drew Barrymore's voice.
-Said disguise is still, as just noted, being worn by a display mannequin upstairs at the same time it's also on the shrink.
-He was somehow able to change between his Holly disguise and his Holly's Dad disguise in the space of a few seconds in a random tunnel somewhere downtown.
-This indicates that we must infer Holly's dad to actually be dead, and that therefore the "rolled downhill and forever out of the reach of human eyes" excuse is intended to be-take a moment to digest this one-the actual reason her father's body was never found.

This is the less stupid of the two twists.

The doc explains he wanted to have Holly declared insane so she'd be forever placed in his care, because she's just so hot. No, nothing about that "inheritance" thing suggested as a much more rational motive back at the start; it's just a big crush. What he doesn't expect, because no sane person would, is for Holly to suddenly twist up like a licorice stick and become a writhing worm that hatches a pair of slimy, bony monsters. These creatures, who look like someone skinned a pair of those Close Encounters aliens, jabber in monster-speak for a bit before one of them hurles the rightly baffled psychiatrist out a window, (I wonder if his body was ever found?) after which they recombobulate back into Holly. Take that, you bastard! There's nothing quite like having a jaw-droppingly implausible coincidence of supernatural proportions come along and fuck up your nefarious plans! On a technical side, note also that it's apparently possible for a girl to turn into a twisted tube of flesh taffy and hatch two gooey skeletons, which then reform into a human girl who is still fully dressed, even though she'd already consented to two utterly superfluous nude scenes earlier in the film. The one time nudity is all but required by the circumstances, they get prudish.

Holly dies from the trauma and is buried, immediately reappears, seduces Patrick, then becomes the monster and attacks him. This bit is all a dream, and she's actually fine, because I guess director Avi Nesher was concerned that the ending wasn't yet stupid enough to cause actual death amongst viewers. Dead audiences are important in cases like this, because live audiences will warn their friends to stay the fuck away.

So that's it. I've spared you from having to actually ever watch this brain-shriveling monstrosity. Allegedly, Drew Barrymore wishes she could erase this film from her career, and I can't say I blame her. And yet, as I've said, this is far from the worst possible film. It's often riotously funny, and best watched in groups of the drunk or suicidal; either type could likely benefit. But don't say you weren't warned.

At great length.

-review by Matt Murray

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