Few films have as bizarre a gestation process as The Evil Within. The brainchild of first-time writer/director Andrew Getty – scion of a billionaire oil dynasty – the story was inspired by the lurid nightmares that blighted him as a child. Production on the film took over 15 years as Getty obsessed over every tiny detail, creating elaborate sets, concocting bizarre camera setups and buying expensive equipment as he strove to make his creation as close to his original vision as possible. Cast and crew came and went throughout the laboured production, and Getty ultimately sank $6 million of his own money into this cinematic exorcism of the monsters plaguing him. Dying tragically as his vision was nearing realisation, producer Michael Luceri took on the duty to see the film through to completion, which is now released as close as possible to how Getty himself would have envisioned it.
A title like The Evil Within might make you write off the film as just another DTV supernatural horror, and even an overview of its plot – Danny, a man with learning difficulties living with his brother John, is urged to kill by his reflection in the large antique mirror John brings home one day – sounds almost purposefully generic. However, rest assured it’s something far more special than that.
In much the same way that the ropy production values of low budget films can be overlooked when they’re creative enough, in this case enough money has been pumped into it that its journeyman vision is afforded the aesthetics of a major production. Getty throws in all the visual techniques you can think of, but instead of becoming the anarchic mess you would expect, they somehow coalesce into something not exactly coherent, but indisputably compelling.
As the film progresses it becomes impossible to tell what is and isn’t intended to be real, and that’s kind of the point. Although this is Danny’s story several scenes occur without him, during which they take on a surreal spin as John and his girlfriend Lydia begin to realise that something isn’t right with the world around them, developing into self-aware constructs of this pocket reality. It’s as though Danny’s sole viewpoint is the only thing holding the Lynchian nightmare together, and the cohesion of reality itself begins to fall apart when denied the preservation of his perspective, the logic of the plot distorting into a mutable dreamscape as it twists and warps through the filtration of a madman’s visual alchemy.
The film does have noticeable faults, such as sub-plots of dubious purpose drifting in and out of the narrative and some stilted dialogue with no purpose other than expository contrivance. It’s a cinematic chimera of pieces hacked apart and stitched together, its inspirations and influences write large across every moment. It’s clear Getty was figuring out his craft as he went, but unlike, say, Ed Wood’s enthusiastic incompetence or Tommy Wiseau’s oblivious narcissism, Getty displays flashes of genuine talent, and we can only try (and probably fail) to imagine what he would have gone on to make.
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.
THE EVIL WITHIN / CERT: TBA / DIRECTOR & SCREENPLAY: ANDREW GETTY / STARRING: FREDERICK KOEHLER, SEAN PATRICK FLANERY, DINA MEYER, MICHAEL BERRYMAN, BRIANNA BROWN / RELEASE DATE: UK RELEASE TBA