Artisan // 1993 // 104 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Kevin Lee (Retired) // April 18th, 2003
What if your deepest, darkest desire came to life?
Drew Barrymore (Charlie's Angels) captured the hearts of moviegoers by starring in E.T., the Extraterrestrial. After a few other roles she followed in the footsteps of many other child actors, finding the price of fame was paid with drugs and alcohol. After she cleaned herself up, she decided to get back into movies and to do so posed for a Playboy pictorial and starred in some really bad horror movies in which she doffed her garments. It must have worked, because she's blossomed into a decent actress and is one of the hotter stars in Hollywood. Doppelganger is apparently the last part of Drew's chapter of trashy movies, and Artisan has brought it home to DVD.
Holly Gooding (Barrymore) is a New Yorker haunted by an evil twin. One of them, though we're not sure which, stabs her mother (Jaid Barrymore) to death in what had to be an ironically cathartic film sequence. Suspected of murder, Holly moves to Los Angeles and rents a room from a shut-in writer, Patrick (George Newbern, TV's Providence), who acts like he'd never spoken to a woman without first giving a credit card number. The next morning, when Patrick is meeting with his editor, Elizabeth (Leslie Hope, Dragonfly, TV's The Jack Bauer Power Hour, AKA 24), he sees Holly standing across the street and staring blankly at the diner. Holly will later deny that she was there and go through some serious mood swings. Days pass and Patrick and Holly begin a torrid affair, only the next morning Holly is really angry at Patrick because he "had sex with her" and denies ever having an affair with Patrick. (I've had dates like this, folks.) As Patrick is drawn into Holly's life, it turns out she's either a psychotic murderer, or being stalked by an evil twin, or being haunted by a dead father, or being haunted by an evil twin, or all of the above. Holly's psychiatrist, Doctor Heller (Dennis Christopher), flies out to help her to no avail. And Patrick is assaulted by his new next door neighbor, an unbalanced FBI agent (Dan Shor, Red Rock West), who's been keeping tabs on Holly and who gets his jollies by killing Patrick's cat. Patrick then goes to a sex phone operator (Sally Kellerman, M*A*S*H) who has the obligatory task of explaining what's going on, after which Patrick follows Holly down an alley and is subsequently attacked by Holly's dead father. And what of these weird visions of a strange creature that may be lurking inside Holly?
In order to understand Doppelganger, we must understand the origins of the word. "Doppelganger" is a compound German word that, when broken apart, yields "doppelg," meaning "made of Play-Doh™" and "anger," meaning "a state of being mad." From this we can safely deduce that the movie is about a really pissed off creature made of Play-Doh™, and Doppelganger certainly doesn't disappoint. The creature is a writhing mass of red and white Play-Doh™ stuck to some broom handles and having all the expressiveness and mobility of a corpse. This would not be a good thing. It's not so much that Doppelganger is a bad movie, it's that Doppelganger is a tremendously bad film, and while I normally wouldn't endorse such measures, the only people who should watch it are the perverts and curiosity seekers who want to see Drew Barrymore in the buff. Period.
Doppelganger's story tries really hard to make some semblance of sense, but fails horribly at this thanks mostly in part to an ill-conceived climax and conclusion (see The Spoiler Witness below for more details). Writer/director Avi Nesher actually does an almost competent job of pacing out a mediocre erotic suspense film, but in pulling everything together, he forces an ending so absolutely preposterous that the few things the film managed to accomplish and do well are completely shattered by the end. It also probably doesn't help too much that the acting in Doppelganger borders on the insanely horrible scale, leading to an Unintentional Comedy Rating of about 80. Drew Barrymore's portrayal of mood swings are nothing short of comically bad, and George Newbern seems to pause for the nonexistent laugh track after ever single line. Particularly bad was Leslie Hope, who's crude imitation of a fast-talking Sandra Bernhard was uninspired and ineffective. When trying to model your performance after somebody in a film, my advice would be to not choose someone as crude and untalented as Sandra Bernhard. Fortunately for their careers, all of these actors managed to improve their abilities as time passed. Or maybe they just worked with better directors.
To better put my feelings about Doppelganger into perspective, I decided to do a list of Pros & Cons.
1. Bad acting.
2. Bad script.
3. Bad ending.
4. Bad pacing.
5. Bad creature effects.
1. Drew Barrymore appears naked.
If you decide that the Pros outweigh the Cons, then you should see this film. For me, there is absolutely nothing in the world short of a direct threat to my life that could force me to watch Doppelganger again.
Artisan has provided a Full Frame (Boo! Hiss!) transfer for Doppelganger, and it's not a particularly good Full Frame transfer, either. It's definitely marred with some edge enhancement and some old-fashioned grain and dirt for good measure. For audio, we're provided with a flat and completely unremarkable 2.0 channel stereo presentation. If Doppelganger had been a watchable film I might be more vocal in my complaints about this, but it wasn't so I won't be. For special features, Artisan has provided a still gallery, which can also be seen in their somewhat improved moving versions if you actually watch the movie.
The Rebuttal Witness portion for this review has been temporarily replaced. While I try very hard not to include spoilers in a review, I simply can't explain how utterly moronic this movie is without spoiling the ending. If, after reading my scathing comments above, you still have the urge to see this film and really want to be surprised, I'd suggest skipping ahead to the Closing Statement below. Otherwise, continue reading.
The conclusion of Doppelganger is an absolute and utter mess. While we are given the obligatory "monster rampage" ending (and who can argue with a monster rampage?), we also get the added benefit of the "Scooby Doo" ending where we're forced to believe that Doctor Heller was behind all of the delusions by disguising himself as all of the various antagonists and somehow being in every location at once. So, let's check that. I'm estimating he was about five-foot-nine, yet managed to disguise himself perfectly as Holly's doppelganger (Barrymore is five-four), a roughly six-foot-tall Evil Dad, and a corrupt FBI agent who was about five-eight. Meanwhile, he was able to meet up with Holly as Doctor Heller immediately after a sighting of one of these characters. He was also able to walk through a tunnel disguised as Holly and thirty seconds later attack Patrick from behind disguised as Evil Dad. Something is simply not adding up here. You win a cookie if you can figure out the problem. Should I also add that the Doppelganger, after taking form from being a Drew Barrymore, turning into a mound of Play-Doh™, and ending up as a figure made of Play-Doh™ and a couple of sticks, manages to defenestrate Doctor Heller in such a way that he lands directly on a white picket fence. Imagine the one-in-a-million chance of this happening, and then imagine this happening in just about every movie that includes a good defenestration. (The Hand That Rocks the Cradle comes to mind.) Isn't a guy falling three stories and landing on his head enough any more?
A wise philosopher once said that all great movies achieve nippleage, but that's hardly enough to save this vile and nonsensical film. It's bad. It's really bad. Avoid this one at all costs.
I find Doppelganger to be double guilty of being double bad.
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Scales of Justice
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 104 Minutes
Release Year: 1993
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Still Gallery