02nd Mar2014

Frightfest 2014: ‘The Scribbler’ Review

by Phil Wheat

Stars: Katie Cassidy, Michelle Trachtenberg, Eliza Dushku, Garrett Dillahunt, Gina Gershon, Sasha Grey, Kunal Nayyar, Billy Campbell, Michael Imperioli, Ashlynn Yennie, Richard Riehle | Written by Dan Schaffer | Directed by John Suits

The-Scribbler-cast

Based on the graphic novel by Dan Shaffer (Doghouse), The Scribbler is the latest “comic book movie” to grace our screen, telling the story of Suki, a lonely woman dealing multiple-personality disorder, who moves into a halfway house for recently released mental patients. But her arrival coincides with the deaths of other residents, residents who are dying at an alarming rate. Continuing her dissociative treatment at “home” Suki, undergoes an experimental procedure to cure her illness involving ‘The Siamese Burn’ machine which is designed to eliminate her unwanted identities one by one. But each time she uses the machine she black out and the machine changes, doing something new, something that turns her world inside out.

As a comic book fan I’ve seen my fair share of graphic novel adaptations (even moreso given the recent explosion in comic book movies), some of which I’ve read the source material and some of which I haven’t. In the case of The Scribbler I was going in cold, only having researched the book after discovering the film was to be premiered at Glasgow Frightfest. And in  way I’m glad I didn’t read the book, even if the film only makes me want to track down the book even more – I’m sure if I’d read the original source material I might not have been quite so blown away by this superb superhero film.

Not that the film starts out as a superhero movie…

For the most part, the movie plays out like a traditional murder-mystery – with a “did she or didn’t she” premise that keeps you guessing until the big third act reveal and the tonal shift that kicks the film into high gear as Suki discovers her inner hero and faces (as is many superheroes wont) her first “super-villain”. Yet whilst many superhero movies, even low budget affairs, put special effects over story and characterisation, The Scribbler is the polar opposite, bringing its characters to the forefront and telling a very human tale of someone more than human.

As with any film that focuses on characters the cast is key and thankfully producer-turned-director John Suits has compiled a fantastic cast for his movie. Lead by Arrow‘s Katie Cassidy, who turns in a surprising performance as Suki (especially given some of her over wrought, sometimes stilted acting gigs on US television), The Scribbler‘s cast is made up of a number of familiar faces and names, including yet another brilliant performance from Garrett Dillahunt – who seems to be making a name for himself as a great horror male lead given his roles in the The Last House on the Left remake and previous Frightfest flick Burning Bright; a naked-yet-again role for The Human Centipede‘s Ashlynn Yennie; and a stunning performance from ans unrecognisable Buffy alum Michelle Trachtenberg as one of Suki’s fellow halfway house residents.

Shot on a budget that would put Marvel Studios to shame, the The Scribbler is a superb blend of science fiction and traditional murder-mystery that, when all’s said and done, turns out to be one the THE best superhero origin movies committed to celluloid. The last time I saw an independent comic turned movie that was this good was The Crow.

A five-star movie if ever I saw one, and I don’t think there’s higher praise than that.

***** 5/5

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