Mirror Man: ‘The Evil Within’ (DVD/Blu-Ray) reviewed

❉ Andrew Getty’s notorious film ‘The Evil Within’ finally arrives in the UK.

Finally released two years after its tortured creator’s tragic death, billionaire Andrew Getty’s The Evil Within – which made its UK home video debut yesterday – is a full blooded throwback to the twisted, nightmarish dreamscapes of cult horrors such as Mirror Mirror, Phantasm, Cameron’s Closet and Wishmaster.

The premise is straightforward: Dennis Peterson (Criminal Minds’ Frederick Koehler) is a mentally handicapped teen who lives with his older brother John (Sean Patrick Flanery). While John’s time is taken up with his increasingly demanding girlfriend Lydia (Dina Meyer – Starship Troopers) Dennis turns to his reflection in an antique mirror for company. A sadistic demon that only Dennis can see – played by Michael Berryman, star of cult classic The Hills Have Eyes – appears in the mirror, urging him to murder the ones he loves in order to ‘fix’ his brain.

Fifteen years in the making, it’s likely that the story of the film’s prolonged production and that of its tortured creator – Andrew Getty, heir to the Getty family fortune  – will become better known than the film itself. Originally titled The Storyteller, the film was a personal project of Getty, which he obsessed over right up until his death, pouring his not inconsiderable fortune into making the film. Getty died at 47 on 31 March 2015.

Producer Michael Luceri: “After Andrew died, I made it my mission to see that his film was completed. I have been on this project from the beginning. Andrew was such a perfectionist, each and every shot had to be perfect before he would move on.  When he was young, Andrew told me that he would have these really powerful, twisted dreams, so scary that he didn’t want to believe they came from inside him, so he had this idea that it was this ’storyteller’ who created the dreams, and that became the genesis of the film’s story.”

Harking back to the cult era of ‘80s horror, where impressionable minds are manipulated by otherworldly embodiments of malice and dragged into a personal hell, where the veil between fantasy and reality becomes ricepaper-thin, The Evil Within is chock full of eyeball-bashing, grotesque and surreal nightmare scenarios where it’s best to surrender disbelief and just go with it. There’s a real fun house quality to the film, from the disquieting opening scene in that staple horror setting, the abandoned funfair, to the climactic face-off with a cadaver-assembled, many-headed animatronic beastie.

As the mentally stunted paraplegic Dennis, Frederick Koehler does great work in a role which, in the hands of a less talented, empathetic performer, would simply come across as crassly exploitative (What was that classic line from Tropic Thunder…? You know the one). He inhabits the character fully, emanating vulnerability and wide eyed innocence even as the bodies pile up, as he becomes a reluctant puppet of the malevolent demon.

Other members of the cast acquit themselves less admirably – and whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent – although there’s a brief, deliciously oddball appearance from prolific character actor Tim Bagley, in a scene of sublime Twilight Zone weirdness that tips Dennis’ brother off to the fact that all is not well.

Unsurprisingly for a film produced over a fourteen year period by an amateur director with a crystal meth addiction, It’s flawed and uneven – but with enough bizarre imagery, sadistic set-pieces and queasy, unnerving moments (at times recalling the underrated Nightmare On Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors) to make it worth enjoying the ride for fans of the genre.

❉ ‘The Evil Within’ was released in the UK by Screenbound Pictures on DVD and Blu-ray on 4 September 2017  at the RRP of £15.99 for the DVD and £17.99 for the Blu-Ray.

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