The Evil Within (2017 film)
|The Evil Within|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Andrew Getty|
|Written by||Andrew Getty|
|Music by||Mario Grigorov|
|Edited by||Michael Luceri, Michael Palmerio|
|Distributed by||Vision Films|
The Evil Within is a 2017 American horror film written and directed by Andrew Getty and starring Frederick Koehler, Michael Berryman, and Sean Patrick Flanery. Originally titled The Storyteller, the film was a personal project of Getty, who largely self-financed the estimated cost of four to six million dollars of the production that took 15 years to complete. After Getty's death in 2015, editing for the film was completed by producer Michael Luceri.
It made its official premiere at the Fantasporto Film Festival on February 26, 2017; and was later acquired by Vision Films, who released the film via Video on Demand on April 4, 2017. It received mixed reviews from critics, who criticized the film's unevenness and dialogue while commending the film's strangeness, and Getty's devotion to the material.
Dennis is a man with a mental disability who has had nightmares all his life since he was a child, including one where he entered a carnival ride that seemed underwhelming. He is told that "the ride isn't over." As an adult, Dennis has one where a living demon, called the Cadaver, fastens a zipper onto his back and enters his body. Also in his dream, he finds a hidden room in the cellar that holds a full-length mirror that Dennis believes the Cadaver came from. The very next day, his brother John presents him with an identical mirror as a gift. He begins speaking to his reflection, who seems to answer back to him.
Dennis' brother John has difficulty of his own. His girlfriend, Lydia, demands that they get married, but is upset that he will not do anything about Dennis. He is visited by Mildy Torres, a woman from social services, who believes that Dennis needs to be taken away. This upsets John as he feels that Dennis is his responsibility. Dennis continues to have nightmares of the Cadaver and his reflection informs him that in order to get rid of it, they need to start killing animals. He begins working in the secret cellar, which perplexes John, especially when he sees that Dennis has videos on taxidermy. Dennis says the videos are not his but were accidentally switched with another customer.
Once Dennis begins killing children, his reflection takes on a more competent demeanor and reveals that "he" was the one giving him the nightmares and that they still have more killing to do. Dennis meets with his crush Susan, an employee at his favorite ice cream place. He tries to ask her out, but the conversation gets awkward and Susan turns him down, hurting him. The Cadaver sends Dennis back to kill Susan. Before he can reach her, she runs out into the street and gets killed by a moving vehicle. When John and Lydia take Dennis to his favorite restaurant, he supposedly kills a man in the bathroom without hesitation, scaring himself. Dennis attempts to destroy the mirror, but his reflection pushes him in and takes on the "real" Dennis instead.
After a night out, John and Lydia discover that they don't recognize anyone at places they visit regularly, implying that Dennis has killed more people. Mildy Torres arrives at the house with two officers and are all killed by Dennis. While sitting at a favorite cafe, John reveals to Lydia his secret: Dennis was a child prodigy whose works had been published in the newspapers. One day while arguing, John punched Dennis and he fell down the stairs. When he awoke, his mentality diminished greatly and John has felt guilty ever since. Lydia sympathizes with John and accepts the idea that if she and John marry, Dennis will always live with them. She leaves to get Dennis, so they can share the happy news over dinner. John's friend Pete is sitting nearby and reveals that the taxidermy tapes are Dennis'. John instructs Pete to call the police, and he hails a taxi.
Lydia arrives at the house and is stabbed by Dennis, who proceeds to remove her insides. John arrives and enters the cellar, where he sits in a chair with a spotlight on it. Dennis appears with a now-stuffed Lydia and puts on a ventriloquist act and John realizes he is glued to the chair. The previous victims have all been stuffed and are used in an extravagant diorama revealing that John intentionally hit Dennis with a baseball bat while he was sleeping. Afterward, he used the fabrication of Dennis falling downstairs to cover his violent act. As more stuffed bodies are revealed, it becomes unclear if John or Dennis is seeing what is actually happening. Overwhelmed, John takes a gun and shoots himself. Dennis is slammed down by a Cadaver-Spider hybrid, only for it to be revealed that he is actually being restrained by police officers who drag him away.
The final scene shows Dennis in a padded room. It's revealed that the reflection Dennis is still in control while the real Dennis is trapped deep in his subconscious. All Dennis can do now is wait to have the dream where he can finally get off the carnival ride.
- Frederick Koehler as Dennis Peterson
- Sean Patrick Flanery as John Peterson
- Dina Meyer as Lydia
- Michael Berryman as Cadaver
- Kim Darby as Mildy Torres
- Francis Guinan as Dr. Preston
- Brianna Brown as Susan
- Tim Bagley as Pete
- Matthew McGrory as Man at Preston's Table
The Evil Within was inspired by the childhood nightmares of Getty. According to a post-production producer who had worked on the film and a friend of Getty, Ryan Readenour: "When he was young he would have these really powerful, sick, twisted dreams, and [they were] so shocking to him that he didn’t think they came from him." Getty conceived the idea that it could be a storyteller who created these dreams, and The Storyteller was then used as the first title of the film. In a supplementary interview on the DVD release, Getty also stated he was inspired by the David Berkowitz Son of Sam killings, in which Berkowitz said he was ordered to kill by a demon taking the form of a talking dog. Getty postulated, what if there really was a demon giving the serial killer orders.
Filming began in 2002, and the film was shot largely in Getty's own mansion. He also converted one of the rooms in his mansion into a post-production suite. He made his own unique camera rigs, built expensive sets, and with his FX team he created elaborate animatronic robots, including an octopus that can play a drum kit. The production however would stop and start over many years as it was beset with funding issues and conflicts with the cast, including a lawsuit from a studio assistant. The cast and crew also went through a number of changes, and according to Koehler, only he and Michael Berryman made it through to the changes.
This is the final film to feature Matthew McGrory who appears in an uncredited cameo from footage shot before his death in 2005. The health conditions of both McGrory and Berryman (who had been ill for some years) had slowed down the production and scripted scenes had to be replaced.
Getty continued to work on the film for many years after the filming, creating his own special effects and trying to perfect the film. He died in 2015 before the film was finished, with the coloring and editing not completed. Producer Michael Luceri, who had also edited the film, finished the film.
The Evil Within made its official premiere at the Fantasporto Film Festival on February 26, 2017. It was later screened at the Dead by Dawn Horror Film Festival on April 20th that same year. Amsterdamned Film Festival on October 27th. That same day the film was alternately screened at the Morbido Film Festival as a part of its "New Blood" section.
The Evil Within has received mixed reviews by the critics, with many critics noting the unevenness of the film. David Fontana of Film Inquiry thought that the film is "riddled with strange and unfocused plot-lines" and "filled with cringeworthy character acting", and that it "becomes so wrapped up in its own eccentricities that it is all but impossible to follow coherently". He nevertheless praised the film for its surreal visuals and special effects, and thought the "nuanced details" of the film "help to raise The Evil Within above its flaws", and that "it’s hard to argue with that much [of Getty's] devotion to this singularly distinguished work of art".  Charles Bramesco of The Guardian considered the film "very clearly the handiwork of a rank amateur under the influence of powerful narcotics", but that "Getty’s monomaniacal drive and technical knowhow resulted in some truly outré horror", and that his "wild experiments with the form command respect". Travis Johnson of Filmink criticized the film's dialogue, and felt that there were "no discernible reasons for scenes and interactions to exists at all", but still judged it "one of most singularly strange films to come along in a good while" and that it is a "remarkable cinematic artifact that is absolutely worth experiencing".
The film was not without its supporters. Andrew Todd from Birth.Movies.Death. gave the film a mostly positive review, stating that the film was 'far more elaborately crafted than one would expect'. Todd further noted that the film's perceived "faults" were actually its strengths, comparing the film to Marcin Wrona's final film Demon as "it’s hard to watch without reading the director’s psychological state and subsequent death into it." Andrew Marshall from Starburst Magazine rated the film a score of 7/10, while noting the film's "dubious" sub-plots and occasionally stilted dialogue, Marshall stated, "The Evil Within will not be for everyone, and as the years pass it’s likely that the story of its prolonged production and tortured creator will become better known than the film itself, but one thing you can say for sure is that Andrew Getty has left his mark upon the world." Matt Boiselle from Dread Central awarded the film 3.5 out of 5 stars, writing, "Solid cast-work, a disquieting overall aura, and Matthew McGrory in one of his final on-screen appearances – it all adds up to a film that should be in your queue of midnight watches now."
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