31 Days of Halloween — Day 27: The Evil Within (2017) — by Dr. Shock

31 Days of Halloween - The Evil Within (2017)

Editor’s note: Dave “Dr. Shock” Becker is a host on Horror Movie Podcast, Universal Monsters Cast and Land of the Creeps horror podcasts. He is also the mastermind behind DVDInfatuation.com, a movie review blog where he is watching and posting one review every day until he reaches at least 2,500 movie reviews. Follow Doc on Twitter: @DVDinfatuation.

I was about three-fourths of the way through 2017’s The Evil Within when I received one hell of a surprise.

It happened as two of the film’s characters, John (Sean Patrick Flanery) and Lydia (Dina Meyer), were having lunch in a neighborhood restaurant. For most of the morning, the couple couldn’t shake the feeling that something strange was going on, mostly because they didn’t recognize anyone in town… a town they’d both lived in for years.

Suddenly, John lets out a sigh of relief; he thinks he spots his psychiatrist, Dr. Preston (Francis Guinan), at a nearby table. John walks over, says hello, and pats the doctor on the back. Only it isn’t Dr. Preston; it’s a large man, well over 7 feet tall, who is none too happy that his meal has been interrupted. The moment this man stood up and turned around, I recognized the actor playing him: It was Matthew McGrory, who had portrayed Tiny in Rob Zombie’s House of 1,000 Corpses and The Devil’s Rejects.

Wait a minute… Matthew McGrory?!?

It couldn’t be. McGrory died in 2005, shortly after shooting his scenes for The Devil’s Rejects (they even had a tribute to him on that film’s DVD, and I remember Shari Moon Zombie tearing up when she recalled how kind and gentle he was).

But it was him, no doubt about it. So, what was an actor who died in 2005 doing in a film released in 2017?

As it turns out, The Evil Within has a production history that would make one hell of a movie in its own right!

Funded for the most part by its writer / director, Andrew Getty (the grandson of billionaire industrialist J. Paul Getty), The Evil Within was shot sporadically between 2002 and 2008, starting and stopping several times due to funding issues, lawsuits, and problems with the cast and crew.

Inspired by a series of disturbing dreams he had as a child, Getty, whose mansion served as the film’s main set piece, finally finished principle photography in 2008, then spent the next seven years meticulously editing the movie and creating his own special effects.

Then, on March 31, 2015, at the age of 47, Andrew Getty died of an intestinal rupture, caused in part (according to the coroner) by his addiction to methamphetamines. The film’s producer, Michael Luceri, who had assisted with some of the editing, then stepped in and finished the movie.

The Evil Within premiered in Portugal at the 2017 Fantasporto Film Festival, a whopping 15 years after its very first scene was shot!

Dennis Peterson (Frederick Koehler), a mentally challenged 30-year-old, lives in a spacious house with his older brother John (Flanery), who has been his caretaker for years. John’s tireless dedication to his brother has caused some friction in his own life. For one, John’s girlfriend Lydia (Meyer) is anxious to get married, but doesn’t want to live in the same house as Dennis. In addition, a nosy social worker (Kim Darby) has been poking around, trying to prove that John isn’t fit to care for a mentally disabled person. Still, John loves his brother, and will do everything in his power to give Dennis as good a life as he possibly can.

One day John finds a full-length mirror in the basement and decides to store it in Dennis’s bedroom. Dennis is none too happy about this (the mirror frightens him), but reluctantly agrees to keep it for a few days. The moment he stares into this mirror, however, Dennis’s reflection begins to talk back to him, and over time it convinces the impressionable Dennis to do some very, very bad things.

But is it really his reflection telling him to kill, or is it the demon that Dennis believes lives inside the mirror (portrayed by horror legend Michael Berryman)?

So, the question I’m sure you’re asking is: What effect did its behind-the-scenes troubles have on the finished film?

Well, for the first hour or so, The Evil Within is an incredibly tense horror movie, a dark, brooding motion picture about a mentally disabled man who transforms into a serial killer before our very eyes (in an on-set interview featured on the DVD, director Getty summed his movie up with the following question: What if it really was a dog that told David Berkowitz, aka The Son of Sam, to go on a killing spree?).

These early scenes feature wildly imaginative dream sequences (the one that opens the movie is truly extraordinary); superb performances by its main cast (especially Koehler as the central character); and moments that are guaranteed to shock and disturb you (Dennis’s reflection talks him into killing several neighborhood pets, then tries to coerce Dennis into “upping the ante” by murdering children).

Unfortunately, the promise displayed in the film’s first hour slowly fades away, resulting in a final 20 minutes or so that are a jumbled mess, with scenes that don’t make a lick of sense (the sequence I mentioned above, in which a confused John and Lydia travel around town, came out of left field) and characters that suddenly drop out of sight. As for the grand finale, it’s visually intriguing but felt rushed and incomplete, leaving the audience in the frustrating position of wanting more.

How much of this disappointing ending can be attributed to the movie’s production woes is anybody’s guess, but I’m betting that, had Getty survived, we might have gotten a final cut that was damn near a masterpiece. Sure, at the pace he was going, it would have taken him until 2025 to finish the damn thing, but if Getty had stayed the course, matching the tone he set early on, The Evil Within could have been something quite special.

Of course, we’ll never know for sure, and that’s a damn shame.

—Dr. Shock

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3 thoughts on “31 Days of Halloween — Day 27: The Evil Within (2017) — by Dr. Shock

  1. Excellent review, Doc Shock! I loved reading that behind-the-scenes insight! What a story! Merely reading how meticulous and painstaking the director was in editing it (a true passion project) makes me want to watch it. How many films receive that kind of care, patience and attention to detail?
    – JOTD

  2. Day 27 – Cult of Chucky


    After being incarcerated at a mental asylum following the killings in Curse of Chucky, Nica must once again battle Chucky once he infiltrates the facility. Unbeknownst to Nica, someone from Chucky’s past is planning on trying to stop Chucky once and for all.

    Coming off of the disappointment of Seed of Chucky, something clearly needed to be changed in the Child’s Play/Chucky series. The success found with Bride of Chucky was poorly handled by writer/director of Seed of Chucky, Don Mancini. The emphasis was entirely on the wackiness rather than just allowing the comedy to be an element of the movie. As the film industry began to change and morph following Seed, the series appears to have officially moved into the VOD release schedule with very limited theatrical screenings. Without having to worry about movie studios being too involved due to Curse of Chucky not being a theatrical release, Mancini seemed to be able to make the movie that he wanted to make. Just as the fans wished, Curse of Chucky did greatly scale back on the zaniness of the previous two films, but the smaller budgets became abundantly clear. Rather than be too wacky for its own good, Curse was too poorly done to be taken seriously. With poor CGI and over the top characters, the series was not improved much with Curse.

    Unfortunately, Cult of Chucky follows the trend started by Curse. My biggest issue with Cult of Chucky is that it lacks realism. By realism, I’m not even speaking entirely about the plot, but rather everything involved. With so much of the film taking place in the mental asylum that Nica currently presides at, it doesn’t look real to me. There’s an overabundance of white. It’s white EVERYTHING. The walls are white, the floors are white, the ceilings are white, the staff are wearing white, white, white, white, white. If I were to go to my local hospital, I’m sure I will see plenty of white, but chances are, the white will have designs in it, perhaps the floor will be checkered with grey, the nurses are going to be wearing colored scrubs, some objects may be faded in color, and there will be some random objects in the rooms that will be eyesores. The difference between the two is that the set in Cult is just that – a set. It’s created for style, not realism. However, if it doesn’t feel like a natural and real place, how is the viewer supposed to be sucked into the story? This seems to be a pretty common trend in movies these days. The active decision of using style over realism. This wasn’t always the case in this series. My favorite Chucky film, Child’s Play 2, had a wonderful scene in a classroom and guess what that scene had? Colors! Many different bright colors to catch the eyes allowing for the classroom to feel as if it may actually be one the viewer would have gone to when they were a child. To sum up the issues with this lack of color, look above at the title card. It’s literally a white background and black text. I can’t even make a gif out of that because that’s all it is. Look at some of my past reviews of the series. Even an awful movie like Seed of Chucky had a fun and colorful title card. Cult of Chucky’s is mind numbingly dull.

    This lack of realism carries over to the characters. Since the film is set in a mental asylum, many of the characters are over the top crazy characters. One patient thinks she died years ago and is roaming the halls of the asylum as a ghost that no one can see. Another patient finds the Chucky doll and begins to treat the doll as if it was her own baby. A male patient has multiple personalities, resulting in him switching up internal profiles various times in the film, thus negating his original “Normal” introduction. Even the main doctor at the asylum, Dr. Foley, holds his own dark secret that destroys his own initially perceived normality. It becomes quite frustrating as the viewer is left without anyone to be able to relate with.

    The basic story itself is pretty flawed as well. Typically when it comes to Chucky’s actions, it’s easy to understand why he’s doing what he’s doing. In the first three Child’s Play films, it was all about transferring his soul into Andy or Tyler. That worked because Andy and later Tyler were the only possible choices Chucky had if he ever wished to become a person again. Once Bride came around and a greater variety of voodoo curses could be used, it became a bit looser with the reasoning. Yet, each film is simple enough. Yet, with Cult, I don’t understand why Chucky is even bothering to go after Nica again. As we slowly learn about Chucky’s plan and what he’s been up to since the events of Curse, I can’t fathom why he’s busying himself going after Nica. In fact, it sounds like an unnecessary risk and a great waste of time for his ultimate goal. Andy Barclay isn’t much better. He’s aware of Chucky’s arrival at Nica’s mental institution and sets out to create an epic plan to stop Chucky once and for all. Without spoiling Andy’s plan, the plan is awful and incredibly shortsighted to the point where he has to be delusional to think that it would have worked. With how poor of an idea it was, I can’t even get behind rooting for Andy when he’s a moron.

    The strongest aspect of this film and its true saving grace shouldn’t be a surprise. Yet again, it’s Brad Dourif as Chucky. Each time Chucky is given a chance to speak and perform some action, he tends to add a bit of entertainment to the film, even if his ultimate plan has some holes in it. I found Cult of Chucky found the perfect balance for Chucky. He’s on the screen and providing one liners enough that he’s holding the film together, but he’s also not taking up too much time, causing the film to devolve into becoming Seed of Chucky II. The handling of Chucky’s screen time and his personality is probably the best it’s been since Child’s Play 3 as Bride/Seed had Chucky on camera and telling jokes nonstop while Curse of Chucky didn’t have enough Chucky for my own personal tastes. I honestly don’t know how this film series would have been able to survive without Dourif.

    For those fans of Chucky, if you do have any interest in watching the film, I recommend that you either buy the Blu-Ray or rent the VOD. Although the copy on Netflix is quite convenient, it is missing a stinger that is found at the end of the credits of the other copies. Much like in the case of Curse of Chucky (Which is also missing the stinger on Netflix), the stinger was one of my favorite additions to the movie. As a fan of the series, the stingers found on both Curse and Cult leave the viewer feeling excited about what they just watched, helping erase some of the bitter feelings from an underwhelming film.

    Overall, Cult of Chucky is a disappointing film. When it was first announced, I knew that it likely wouldn’t be very good, but I was excited to see Chucky again. When it came to actually watching the movie, the lack of realism killed it for me. The only way you can describe it is that it’s a poorly made film. Like with Seed and Curse, the CGI at times can be pretty lousy, although not all of the deaths are so poorly done like in Seed. Brad Dourif remains the star of the series, and the one holding it all together. Although the first hour can make for a rough watch, once Chucky starts to get in more screen time, Dourif nearly ends the movie on a high note. Perhaps the biggest reason to watch Cult of Chucky is that based on the ending, there’s a very good chance that Mancini will be creating yet another sequel. With any hope, his fourth movie will finally be a good one. Personally, this Chucky fan is hoping that the series just returns to it’s good old fashion “Hide the soul” plot involving Chucky and a child.

    Rating: 5.5/10 (All because of Chucky being entertaining when he had screen time)

  3. Day 27: Jungle Woman (1944)

    Jungle Woman is a sequel to Captive Wild Woman (1943) and once again stars Acquanetta. The film begins with a murder scene that connects to the ending. The rest of the story is told in the coroner’s office with different characters filling in parts of the story for us.

    Dr. Carl Fletcher was in the audience at the circus during the climactic events of the first film, Captive Wild Woman. He revives Cheela the gorilla and she turns back to her human form, Paula. In dated sexist form, Paula gets jealous of another woman, Lois, and will stop at nothing to get her fiancé, Bob.

    This film is really fun and campy. There is little tension and horror in the hour running time and like Captive Wild Woman it is filled with circus scenes and lion taming. Watch this film only if you’d like to travel deep into the jungle of the classic Universal Horror filmography. 3.5/10

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