A woman with multiple personality disorder is sent to a half-way house to submit to a cure that will ‘burn away’ her unwanted personalities. As soon as she arrives, there is a rash of suicides and the woman is questioned by two police who think her the cause of the deaths. Is one of her personalities killing people? ‘The Scribbler’ is a popular graphic novel from England and its author, Dan Schaffer, has adapted it for the screen.
John Suits directs. The film exudes a grunge look and a grunge feel while it shifts gears and genres. Rating: low +1 (-4 to +4) or 5/10
Katie Cassidy of TV’s ‘Arrow’ plays Suki, a mentally ill young woman who suffers from dissociative identity disorder. In other words, she has a menagerie of alternate personalities living in her head and not all of them does she control. She has been placed in a sort of mental illness hal-way house, nightmarishly ugly, to be given a treatment called the Siamese Burn. This involves her being put on an unperfected device that somehow goes into her head, seeks out extraneous personalities and destroys them.
Somehow it knows not to remove the last personality and Suki is worried that the last remaining personality is not the one she wants. But since she has arrived there has been an outbreak of patient suicides. Perhaps one of Suki’s personalities may be the homicidal personality called ‘The Scribbler’, who seems to compel Suki to write in mirror images and soon the walls are covered with the backwards writing of a very disturbed mind. Perhaps that mind is one of several minds whispering to Suki but she looks at her illness as the source of her strength. As she puts it: 1) the crazy don’t play by the rules and 2) there are always side effects.
We never get a coherent view of what Suki’s illness involves. Later in the film, we see some unexpected advantages the sickness gives her, though this really turns the story into something very different. One cannot really see it coming because of the convoluted storytelling and we are given some very major twists after the first hour of this 88-minute film. Knowing that this is a comicbook film, I should have suspected the changes coming. In the end, we have been given more strange visual images than coherent explanations. For some reason, not entirely explained in the plot, the facility has only one male patient. Though there are several female patients, there is only one male, Hogan (played by Garret Dillahunt).
Hogan enjoys the access this affords him. As he puts it, ‘every henhouse has its rooster.’ If there were no males it would make sense and, if there were a lot more, it would make sense. But why is there only one man, particularly because of the benefits he receives? Frankly, for me the most likable character is a dog that we see all too little of.
In the end, we see something rather familiar being presented in an unconventional way. Perhaps this film is a little ambitious to fit into what appears to be a less than modest budget. As a result, the film is demanding on the actors and frankly demanding on the viewer with a tendency to bog down a bit and become muddled. Perhaps writer Dan Schaffer is finding that there are some basic differences between the comicbook and motion picture media.
Overall, I rate the film a low +1 on the -4 to +4 scale or 5/10. ‘The Scribbler’ will be given a limited theatrical release on 19 September 2014. It will be available on DVD and Blu-ray starting 21 October.
Mark R. Leeper
© Mark R. Leeper 2014