The Scribbler
dir John Suits
scr Dan Schaffer
prd Gabriel Cowan, Ken F Levin
with Katie Cassidy, Garret Dillahunt, Billy Campbell, Eliza Dushku, Michael Imperioli, Michelle Trachtenberg, Gina Gershon, Sasha Grey, Ashlynn Yennie, Kunal Nayyar, TV Carpio, Richard Riehle
release UK Mar.14 gff, US 19.Sep.14
14/US 1h28
The Scribbler
Bump in the dark: Cassidy and Dillahunt

campbell dushku imperioli
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
The Scribbler Based on a graphic novel, this stylish horror thriller is so harsh and fragmented that it's difficult to engage with, even though the filmmaking is adventurous enough to hold the attention. It's a story of mental illness told as a surreal freak-out, which makes it utterly mesmerising even if, like the central character herself, it's difficult to work out what's actually happening.

After three people commit suicide at the psychiatric halfway house Juniper Towers, cops (Dushku and Imperioli) interrogate the inmate Suki (Cassidy), who has multiple-personality disorder. She's being treated by Dr Sinclair (Campbell) and his experimental "Siamese Burn" machine, but something seems to be going strangely awry. She turns to fellow inmate Hogan (Dillahunt), who tries to talk her into avoiding the machine altogether, then loans her a video camera to record what happens when she uses it. And as things get increasingly confusing, he starts using it with her.

The Scribbler is one of Suki's most aggressive personalities, which only emerges when she's blacked out. So she wakes to find mirrored writing everywhere, including menacing clues and urgings to "unzip your head". When Suki starts talking to a bulldog with a Cockney accent, she knows things are getting worse. Yes, the script is a entanglement of witty gags and impenetrable codes, as entertainingly unhinged as a fever dream and not much more coherent.

Performances are full-on but eerily believable, with gothic touches and wildly stylised madness that matches the arch production design. Jupiter Towers is so grubby that it looks like a portal of hell. Director Suits further heightens the bonkers tone with moody lighting, menacing music and deranged visual effects, taking us so deep into Suki's mind that, like her, we haven't a clue what's real as the plot shuttles between bizarre conversations, lurid flashbacks, ominous interrogations and dreamy sex.

As things build to the fantastically brain-bending but visually garbled climax, the film becomes consumed by its own psychobabble. At least this leaves tantalizing morsels of meaning scattered throughout the scenes, as it touches on how crazy people never play by the rules in a society of conformists. Or how scary the darker corners of our own minds can be. And if our right hand sometimes doesn't know what our left hand is doing, maybe each of us has multiple personalities.

cert 15 themes, language, violence, sexuality 19.Sep.14

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