The Evil Within Is Actually Quite Good... and On Blu!

This film has a really interesting backstory, but don't let that distract you.  This new release, indie horror flick has been getting coverage in all sorts of unusual places, like People Magazine and this weak Guardian review, but that's just because they want to dish about how the first time writer/ director Andrew Getty was an heir to the oil fortune, spent fifteen years working on this film, and died to his drug habit before it was complete (one of the producers finished it up).  I mean, I suppose that's all true and all; but the real story is that The Evil Within (a.k.a. Whiplash and The Storyteller) is actually quite a good, original new horror movie.

Update 6/15/17 - 12/29/19: So, just five months after the DVD comes out in the US, and three months after I posted this write-up saying how this movie is desperately calling out for an HD release, Screenbound Pictures releases it on blu in the UK.
And Getty may've been working on this film for fifteen years, but he couldn't have been shooting it for fifteen years.  This isn't the Boyhood of horror; we don't see the actors age a decade and a half through the course of this picture or anything.  Just watching the film on its own, you'd have no idea of its tortured history.

It's also not wildly incoherent, the way some write-ups are making it sound.  Yes, it's a surreal, in some ways Lynchian horror flick that shows us the world through the lead character's unreliable perspective, a la Repulsion.  Plus, a large element of the story is about dreams, putting it a bit more in the vein of Phantasm.  But its narrative still manages to be more straight-forward and clear than either of those films, and pointed criticisms from that Guardian review like, "characters appear and vanish without warning or explanation, long surrealist interludes go nowhere, and the plot constantly veers into tangents that appear to bear little relevance to the rest of the film" are flat out untrue.  I think their critic just wasn't paying attention.
But still, it's far from a perfect film.  It's definitely a mixed bag.  On the one hand, this film is filled with stunning visual imagery and wild practical effects that justify the price of admission alone.  Just quickly catching the trailer online, I had to see this film.  And unlike most horror films, it completely lives up to its trailer.  But the story's also quite compelling, with genuinely smart writing and human undercurrents about a mentally handicapped man who's frustrated by a world that has no patience for him, and what his inner demons ultimately push him to do about it.  That's helped immensely by some terrific acting, particularly by the film's lead: Frederick Koehler, the nerdy exposition guy from all those Death Race remakes.  People talk about James MacAvoy in Split, but that's like hammy popcorn fare compared to where this guy goes.
On the other hand though, this has some drawn-out, clunky scenes that really feel like the awkward work of a first-time filmmaker.  Like I think co-star Sean Patrick Flanery is giving a decent performance overall, but when he starts talking to Dina Meyer (whose performance could use a bit of a jolt) or his psychiatrist, feel free to go out to the kitchen and top up your drinks.  It's like being trapped in a student theater group.  Yeah, you need some of that exposition, but some judicious editing could've turned a stilted, uneven film into juggernaut.  Plus, there are one or two "plot convenience" moments and one jokey, meta line of dialogue in the ice cream shop that's so out of place, I can only imagine the director must've left it in the final film on a dare.

So maybe don't come into this film expecting the greatest horror film since the original Hellraiser; you'll probably be disappointed.  But definitely don't let its total garbage dump of a release strategy put you off seeing it, either.  Yes, it's a mixed bag, but one where the highs are so high that the lows are immaterial.  And yeah, it was a DVD-only release here in the US, and hardly a packed special edition at that.  But it's absolutely worth owning.  Michael Berryman hasn't had a horror role this cool since The Hills Have Eyes (sorry, Cut and Run).
2017 Vision DVD top; 2017 Screenbound BD bottom.
I was pretty disappointed this film got a DVD-only release, but thinking about it, since it was started back in 2002, maybe there's some issue where some of the effects were only finished in standard def?  But it's just as likely, if not moreso, that Vision Films, the company that finally bought this film out to the world, were just cheap.  Spot-checking their catalog, it seems like most of their films are DVD-only.  Well, Screenbound sure solved that mystery for us!

Anyway, for a DVD, Vision's disc looks alright.  It's anamorphic, 2.35:1, and not interlaced or otherwise troubled.  It's a bit soft, like standard def tends to be, but honestly, I didn't really anticipate how much better it would look in HD until I saw Screenbound's blu.  Fine detail (and there are a ton of neat little production design and special effects nuggets tucked to peck out and discover in this movie) is really clarified and brought to life in a way that exceeds your average BD/ DVD combo pack.  They're still presumably using the same root DCP file for a master and all, so I'm a little surprised at the distinction, but it's a very satisfying boost whatever the story behind it.  There's also a bit of a reddish hue over everything on the DVD that the BD clears up.

Both releases do give you the option of a stereo or 5.1 mix, but on the blu, only the stereo mix is lossless (PCM); the 5.1 is a lossy AC-3 Dolby Digital mix (obviously both are lossy on the DVD).  Both discs also include optional English subtitles.
While I said the DVD was no packed special edition (an audio commentary by the producer who completed the film would've been terrific), it at least has a few short extras that are noteworthy.  First up are three short, on-camera interviews, all clearly filmed during production.  The best is with Getty himself.  This film, and the story behind it, raise a million questions, and he answers about two.  But a little bit's better then nothing.  The next interview is with Koehler, which is alright, but he mostly just heaps praise on Getty and goes over points we clearly saw in the film.  The final interview is with Brianna Brown and is 75 seconds long, so you can guess how substantive that one gets.  Then there are two deleted scenes.  One is a very short clip of repetitious exposition, but the other is a totally graphic and ambitious dream sequence, which seems crazy that they would've cut from the film.  It's possible that they might've had to lose it to prevent an NC-17, though.  Anyway, there's just that plus the trailer and a couple of bonus trailers that play on start-up.  All told, it's like fifteen minutes or less of content, but I'm glad to have it.

Especially since the blu-ray has bupkis, not even a trailer.
So yeah, the BD is hands down the definitive way to watch this film, but it's a bummer about those extras.  They weren't extensive, but they were still worth having.  Like, fans will want to see that dream sequence.  If you're a devoted enough fan, you could get both, since they're not terribly pricey; but we shouldn't have to do that.  Screenbound couldn't slap the basic EPK stuff on their disc?  But, oh well.  I've got both now, and I reckon it's worth it.  It's very rare for a contemporary horror film to make it into my collection.  So yes, it's imperfect (very imperfect), and you can let those flaws ruin it for you if you're the wrong frame of mind.  But seriously, I don't recommend new release horror like this lightly... I mostly just heavily criticize them.  It's also priced to sell as a budget title, so it's low risk.  Give it a shot; I'm glad I did.


  1. It got a blu-ray release that is region free in the UK. Amazon has it in the used section. ;)

  2. you misunderstood it still, but only slightly.

    "human undercurrents about a mentally handicapped man who's frustrated by a world that has no patience for him, and what his inner demons ultimately push him to do about it."

    This is wrong, but its easy to mistake. thats how the game is played it has to be believable. The darkness that was now inside of him, used what he was insecure of coupled with what in the real would could cause him real harm. These were the tools to manipulate him into acting out his dreams, when truths told about the real world paint a lie thats covered up by an ethereal image of the real world layered on top of it. It didn't matter he was handicapped, it was the tool at hand most effective to be used and leverage in possession.