The Scribbler


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

"Shaffer has adapted the story from his own comic book and tends towards self-indulgence."

Suki (Katie Cassidy) has just been released from a psychiatric institution. She doesn't seem like somebody with mental health problems, but that's because she's not - however, some of her other personalities are. With a diagnosis of dissociative personality disorder, she's undergoing the radical new Chinese Burn treatment, which is supposed to kill some of those troublesome interlopers off - but could it also endanger her?

Anyone familiar with psychiatry will know that a diagnosis like Suki's is hard to get and that most treatments are experimental, so right from the outset there are questions about the ethics of how her case is being managed. Still more worrying is her placement in a gratuitously grimy halfway house full of people with different psychiatric disorders, some of whom may be dangerous - sadly, this could be considered fair comment on mental health care in many places. Suki, however, takes it in her stride; she's not intimidated by poverty and she's determined not to let abusive neighbour Alice (Michelle Trachtenberg), who likes to push people down the stairs, unsettle her. She copes well with most of what life throws at her (even the embarrassment of having an alter who finds her friend Hogan (Garret Dillahunt) sexually attractive), but when her neighbours start dying, and when she realises that she has been spending whole days in the possession of potentially aggressive alter The Scribbler, she starts to get really concerned.

Copy picture

There's a lot of interesting potential in the set-up, even without going down the Jekyll And Hyde route, but screenwriter Shaffer has adapted the story from his own comic book and tends towards self-indulgence. By shifting genre part way through the story takes the path of least resistance. Some of the material around mental health is crudely (though not offensively) handled and overall the film is let down by choppy editing that robs it of tension. Visual clich├ęs and a couple of weak supporting performances add to its problems. Cassidy, however, is strong in the lead and, dodgy narration aside, her downbeat performance does a great deal to ground the film.

Fans of the comic will find that Shaffer's vision has been transferred very effectively to the screen, with the Scribbler's frantic writing mirroring aspects of his art. Keeping the special effects simple enhances rather than detracts from this, even during the climactic action sequences. The inevitable 'What is normal anyway?' question is better handled than in many such tales and overall the film will have a strong appeal to a niche audience. Others will find it quite watchable, if nothing to write home about.

Reviewed on: 28 Aug 2014
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A woman with multiple personality disorder undergoes a strange new procedure.

Director: John Suits

Starring: Katie Cassidy, Michelle Trachtenberg, Eliza Dushku

Year: 2014

Runtime: 88 minutes

Country: US


Glasgow 2014

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