THE EVIL WITHIN (2017)
Written and Directed by Andrew Getty
Mentally handicapped Dennis is a troubled young man. After enduring a wicked nightmare when he was young about a haunted house ride at the funfair which would take him on a journey of pure evil, Dennis has been plagued by terrifying dreams ever since. Now a grown man, Dennis relies on his older brother John to look after him. John, though cares deeply for Dennis, yearns for a life without responsibilities and contemplates about shipping his brother off to a hospital so he can concentrate on his own life with girlfriend Lydia. However, he feels a sense of duty to Dennis, one that he can’t shrug off so easily.
Whilst everything seems rather well in the household between the brothers, it all starts to go down hill when John buys Dennis a freestanding mirror for his room. Horrified by the new piece of furniture invading his space, Dennis protests to having it anywhere near him. Annoyed by his overreacting, John pleads with Dennis to at least try it out for a few days and so Dennis has no option to agree. Having seen the mirror in his dreams, Dennis is reluctant to go near it but all that changes when he sees a familiar reflection in the mirror who talks to him and tells him how he can get better, get smart and stop the nightmares. All he has to do is kill the neighbour’s cat…
15 years in the making, horror movie THE EVIL WITHIN has finally seen the light of day via Amazon Prime and now on DVD in the UK. Written and directed by the late millionaire Andrew Getty, heir of the Getty oil fortune, THE EVIL WITHIN was his project of passion. Having died in 2015 from a stomach ulcer brought on by years of meth usage, Getty was a man of dedication and perfection when it came to filmmaking and having watched this film, I can safely say he was undiscovered genius who’s wealth of talent beyond one film we will sadly no longer discover.
An outstanding Frederick Koehler stars as stuttering, slow-learner Dennis, a likable young man who’s inner dialogue speaks much more elequantly than his out-loud voice, as we are told by his narration at the movie’s opener. With his hamsters and their habitrail tunnels running throughout his room and his love of ice-cream (both of which I can relate to), Dennis enjoys the simple pleasures in life but even these are disrupted by the nightmares he has every single night. Wanting to be ‘normal’ and to be treated with respect from his brother John (Sean Patrick Flanery), Dennis will do anything to gain the happiness he desires and rid himself of the hellish dreamscapes he endures.
It’s pretty easy to connect with the lead character in this movie thanks to the opening scenes of him as a child which almost puts us in the shoes of Dennis himself. His straight-forward lifestyle as an adult is quite admirable and we understand his pain as he is subjected to his brother John’s whims which result in his brother losing his temper with him. Though John isn’t a bad character, we’re very much on the side of Dennis intiially though as the story progresses and Dennis becomes more distant, we appreciate the struggles and concerns John is experiencing. His stress levels through the roof, it’s no wonder he needs to see a shrink but meddling from his girlfriend Lydia (Starship Troopers‘ Dina Meyer) seems to be worsening his condition too. However, none of this is a match for the horrors endured in one’s own mind, something which Dennis is unable to escape and, like Dennis, we have no choice but to watch as it all unfolds as Dennis looses his grip on reality.
Having read about films that promise to freak you the hell out but spectacularly missing the mark, THE EVIL WITHIN is refreshingly quite the opposite. This debut effort from Getty is probably the freakiest shit I’ve ever seen and it’s such a pleasure to witness it. With his surreal influences, no doubt encourage by the meth use, and pride in every second of film, evident right from the opening scenes at the dream-like fun fair, I’ve never seen filmmaking like this. Like a kid in a sweet shop, THE EVIL WITHIN treats you to so much nightmarish eye-candy that sometimes you feel like you can’t see it all in one go. And at the centre of the traumatising landscapes is a malevolent creature in the form of Michael Berryman as ghoulish demon Cadaver. Stalking the mind of poor Dennis, Cadaver seems to have got a grip of his prey from a very young age and enjoys plaguing his every sleeping moment. Yes, I know, it all sounds very Freddy Krueger like but Cadaver is much more than a knife-fingered boogeyman haunting your sleep. Cadaver doesn’t say very much in his original form, one of many which he takes, but Berryman oozes menace in his most frightening role yet as the demon trickster.
Wth its outstanding stop-motion set pieces and practical, in-camera effects that hark back to decades gone by (opening a body up like a zipped costume, anyone?), THE EVIL WITHIN is a tale of terror that grabs hold of you from the first second and refuses to let go until the credits roll. Though it has a few bumpy moments in terms of the story and the way in which it’s executed, along with a couple of stiff performances here and there, the film is everything you could possibly want from a nightmarish tale of terror. Do yourself a favour, give it a try and witness what 15 years in the making and 6 million dollars in production looks like in a debut like no other.