SCREEN QUEST: THE EVIL WITHIN

FEATURED ATTRACTION: Cigarette Burns Cinema screened THE EVIL WITHIN (2017) at Regent Street Cinema — 08 AUG 2017.


d. Andrew Getty

Some journeys into the darkness will remain forever strange and inconclusive. Watching Andrew Getty’s passion project THE EVIL WITHIN unspool last night at Regent Street Cinema was one of those nights. Self-financed, (re)assembled and fine-tuned over 15 years, the film was completed posthumously after the writer/director/producer cum ‘animatronic drum-playing octopus wrangler’¹ died during post-production. THE EVIL WITHIN will therefore always be Getty’s only film, a horror show about a young man, Dennis (Frederick Koehler), with intellectual impairments rapidly descending into hell. It is both a curiously stitched sampler of every horror film you’ve ever seen and a unique artwork in its own right.

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THE EVIL WITHIN’s Frederick Koehler & Michael Berryman (2017).

There are moments — particularly the dark ride opening and the extravagantly staged Grand Guignol ending — where Getty achieves a majesty resembling Tim Burton’s dream sequences from PEE-WEE’s BIG ADVENTURE via the tonal desolation of HENRY: PORTRAIT OF A SERIAL KILLER. In these vivid bookends, Getty is revealed to be a meticulous stage magician, having spent the years practicing his craft to play tricks with the nuance of nightmare. Self-financing, he also gets away with horrors no mainstream studio would allow: pets, children, power tools and a fire extinguisher (!) all feature in Dennis’ deranged preparations. These free-range sensibilities make watching THE EVIL WITHIN an unsettling experience. No matter what the film’s faults, it’s great to be sat in the dark being thrown around on the wooden tracks of such a bumpy thrill ride.

As with many filmmakers, both auteur and apprentice, it is the storytelling where Getty stumbles most. Plot and characters meander, the script feels first draft — poor Dinah Meyer and Sean Patrick Flanery spew lines that defy dreamscape logic — and the staging gets clumsy as day jumps to night and cars roll into shot from, well, just over there…

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THE EVIL WITHIN’s Dina Meyer & Sean Patrick Flanery (2017).

Scattered throughout are moments when the attention to detail comes screaming back through, dragging us into a theme park of Getty’s own demons. The modern family night out at Captain Monsoon’s pizza restaurant is an uneasy favourite, complete with a deliberately ropey animatronic band and an ‘is he/isn’t he?’ dream sequence involving self-proclaimed hottie Ice Cream Sue (Brianna Brown).

To dismiss THE EVIL WITHIN as a vanity project is crude and unfair. There is commitment, craft and, most importantly, intent here that repeatedly commands our attention. We’ve written before about not buying into aloof ‘so bad it’s good’ cults. This is not a movie to sit outside and laugh at (if indeed there are any). Its admittedly wayward pleasures come from allowing yourself to be dragged by Michael Berryman’s demon through the mirror, deep into the maze.

Last night’s screening ended with a Skype Q&A with producer Michael Luceri. Having worked with Getty on the latter stages of his project, and completing the film following his death, Luceri is in an ideal position to help focus and refine his friend’s vision. Indeed, it’s Luceri’s fondness for Getty, and all the other talent that drifted in and out of this sprawling production, that stands out, suggesting this film’s peculiar legacy is in safe hands.

HUNGRY FOR MORE?

  • THE EVIL WITHIN at IMDb.
  • Birth Movies Death gives good review.
  • THE EVIL WITHIN is distributed on Blu-Ray in the UK by Screenbound Pictures/Classic Films Direct. Release date: 04 SEPT 2017. Available from your favourite stockists: here’s a link to the big river.
  • According to Luceri, Getty’s original director’s cut ran some 2hr 18min. The version screened last night was 1hr 39min, which means there’s plenty more meat for the ravenous.
  • Andrew Getty left a number of other completed scripts when he died. Luceri and others are committed to seeing them rise. One can but hope.
  • Follow Cigarette Burns Cinema for more like this.

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All featured images: THE EVIL WITHIN (2017).

¹Yes, that’s really ‘a thing’.

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