Spoilers need to cancel all their appointments.
Blending the erotic thriller with the slow and bleak horror is not an easy trick to pull. Fortunately, director David Cronenberg excelled at creating a film that psychologically test our ability to remain in our seats. I have to give much praise Jeremy Irons for both of his performances but this wasn’t an easy watch. I have learned that not all films need to coddle their audiences and it’s good to be challenged once in a while. As a matter of fact, the idea of this feature is to get under your skin in more ways than one.
Dead Ringers (1998) was directed by David Cronenberg who also co-wrote it with Norman Snider. Identical twins Beverly and Elliot Mantle (both played by Jeremy Irons) are successful gynecologists that run their own practice. Elliot is pragmatic while Beverly is rather sentimental. Elliot is known to seduce patients only to get bored and pass them along to his brother. Eventually a woman comes along, Claire Niveau (Geneviève Bujold) that captures Beverly’s heart. Claire discovers the brothers ways and confronts them, but eventually forgives Beverly and starts a relationship with him. She also ends up getting him into recreationally using prescribed drugs.
The rise and then obligatory fall of both Mantle brothers as Beverly ends up hopelessly addicted and misguidedly trying out radical procedures with custom-made horrific instrumentation is the stuff of nightmares. If you feel queasy just going to your dentist, seeing gynecological instruments that look like they belong in a torture chamber more than a surgery will not help. The surgery scenes are made surreal by the preposterous use of the color red. This is not a jumpscare film, but one of very blunt horrific implications.
The film does not have really any levels of gore or brutality that could thrill or entice modern audiences. It does have a rather disturbing level of psychological implications that might never be portrayed visually, but are definitely implied. There’s no romanticism or heroics. It’s all things that seem worse due to imagination. Don’t underestimate this film, it can still horrify in the modern age and not in a way that can be taken lightly. I appreciated revisiting it once but I’d rather not see it again, and that’s saying something.
Only recommended with strong reservations for fans of bleak horror. There is no revenge angle by which the horror is used to give you any fulfilling sense of punishing the guilty. The slow descent into madness is relentless. It is a well made film, but as horror films go it has no release. The depression does not end and lingers on. Casual audiences might want to steer clear. Slow on action and lacking gore, means only fans of the slow and bleak branding of horror might be interested.
That will do for now.