THE EVIL WITHIN (2017) Reviews and overview

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‘You can’t run from a nightmare’

The Evil Within is a 2017 American horror film written and directed by Andrew Getty (1967–2015), grandson of billionaire Jean Paul Getty. It stars Frederick Koehler, Sean Patrick Flanery, Dina Meyer and Michael Berryman.

Andrew Getty began began the film way back in 2002, having experienced some strange nightmares that he wanted to adapt into a horror movie (see articles below). Getty laboured on his personal obsession – often with many different actors than originally cast, except Berryman – until his unexpected death in 2015 from a hemorrhaging ulcer brought on by a long history of recreational meth usage. Co-producer Michael Luceri then edited together masses of Getty’s filmed footage and elaborate special effects sequences to finish The Evil Within.

Dennis Peterson (Koehler) is a mentally challenged teen who lives with his older brother John (Flanery). While John struggles between caring for Dennis and maintaining a relationship with his increasingly impatient girlfriend Lydia (Meyer), Dennis finds a friend in his own reflection in an antique mirror.

However, in reality, the reflection is soon revealed to be an evil entity (Berryman) who is more charming, smarter and stronger than Dennis, and instructs him to do horrific things in order to ‘fix’ his brain. Tortured and confused, Dennis embarks on a murderous rampage, collecting the bodies in his basement.

A police investigation, helmed by a determined social worker (Darby), targets the Peterson’s in an attempt to uncover the truth behind the murders. With the walls rapidly closing in, Dennis makes his final play, with dire results…

Co-producer and editor Michael Luceri told press:

“After Andrew died, I made it my mission to see that his film was completed. I have been on this project from the beginning. Andrew was such a perfectionist, each and every shot had to be perfect before he would move on. When he was young, Andrew told me that he would have these really powerful, twisted dreams, so scary that he didn’t want to believe they came from inside him, so he had this idea that it was this ’storyteller’ who created the dreams, and that became the genesis of the film’s story.”

The Supernova LLC and Writers Studio movie is being distributed worldwide by Vision Films. In the UK, the film is released on Blu-ray and DVD by Screenbound Pictures on 4 September 2017.



The Evil Within is an excruciating deep-dive into terror, mingling the worst of both the existential and metaphysical worlds; an immediate association with Scavolini’s Nightmare in a Damaged Brain (1981) and Roffman’s The Mask (1961) come to mind.

Frederick Koehler is phenomenal as Dennis, flipping seamlessly back and forth between mentally challenged and demonically evil; years ago I would always catch Kate & Allie just to watch him almost crack up while delivering lines; even though he was only a kid, he was the funniest thing on that show. Here, his amazing ebullient talent is still evident.

The writing in The Evil Within is outstanding, the imagery is breathtakingly horrific, the subject matter timeless, and the acting by all concerned is pretty much tops. It was also nice to see Kim Darby as a spirited social worker. The film gains instant credibility by drawing a line back to the original Don’t be Afraid of the Dark, likely the best made-for-TV horror movie ever.

Ben Spurling, MOVIES and MANIA

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Other reviews:

“The timing of the scares is odd, but the imagery is even odder. Getty’s shots are infiltrated by boisterously weird imagery and effects, the barrier between worlds is lifted with amateur charms, like an unfocused Lynchian nightmare. For all its laughable faults, Getty’s film is unsettling, brutal, harsh, and gives very few shits about your expectations.” Scott Clark, Cinehouse

“There are some effective shots involving mirrors, some suspenseful stalk-and-slash sequences and occasional moments of gore. However, the film doesn’t quite come together as a whole […] The tone is also pretty uneasy and tasteless in its exploitation of the mentally ill. It’s a very mixed bag, but worth watching for its visual design.” Evan Popplestone, Cinema’s Fringes

“Getty’s film is full of strange images that play on the psyche, the nightmares are seamlessly placed in and out of the scenes of the movie, with the entity appearing in moments that will give you many sleepless nights with the thoughts of it in your dreams. The murderous intentions of this bizarre creature grow as Dennis moves from animals to children and then on to adults. This is a film that you watch on the edge of your seat…” Karen Woodham, Blazing Minds

“The full film extends itself so far past “bad” and into “bonkers” that it becomes a curiosity of pitiably imprudent ineptitude. From disjointed fiction to overwhelmed ambition, The Evil Within truly is to horror what The Room is to drama. You should see it for yourself, if only to be in awe of its awfulness.” Ian Sedensky, Culture Crypt

” …The Evil Within stands as a testament to a bright career cut short. The film deserves to endure, though, by its own merits: It’s a strong, uncompromising vision that’s instantly compelling, perfectly paced, and hypnotically unfurled.” Horrorfreak News

“What really pushes The Evil Within over the line into masterpiece territory (ok, that’s hyperbole, I admit it) is in its creature effects. The climax of the story features some bonkers puppets and creatures. They’re huge. They’re ugly. They’re perfect. They evoke nightmares that we all may have had. Which is what the film ultimately is. A nightmare. Weird logic. Strange editing. And fight-or-flight inducing monsters.” No Real Danger

” …the film rests soley on Koehler, who brings two very distinct characters to life: his awkward but likeable teen Dennis, in which he channels Charles Laughton’s Quasimodo, and his dominate and downright scary sociopath reflection. It’s a mesmerising dual performance that puts everyone else in shadow […] I’ve watched this twice now and can’t wait to sit through it again. A true outsider cult hit in the making.” Kultguy’s Keep

The Evil Within is as bizarre as it is amusingly-twisted […] It has a number of flaws but I highly recommend that you give it a watch. I must praise Frederick Koehler as Dennis. His acting is incredibly believable throughout. There are a number of scenes in which he has a back and forth with the alternate version of Dennis in the mirror. He transforms from one to the other with such ease, it’s very impressive.” Games, Brrraaains & A Head-Banging Life

“The wildness of some of the imagery that Getty throws at us – the mother figure who has a mouthful of teeth for eyes; Michael Berryman’s corpse figure unzipping Frederick Koehler’s body and slipping inside it – leaves you absolutely slack-jawed.” Moria

“It is something totally unique. A singular work of madness spawned from the darkest depths of flawed genius. It is at once a bad movie and a great one and it really left me speechless by the end. I loved it and feel like it deserves multiple viewings just to begin to understand what Andrew Getty might have been trying to tell us.” Horror Society

“The distorted fever dream that is Evil Within does not hold up to the hype. Getty is trying to tell his story in some avant-garde poorly executed manor that comes across as a hot mess. I’m sure it made perfect sense to him, as it’s based off his nightmares, but to an audience it’s basically a higher quality student art film. Having said all of this, I still recommend you watch it. I can see this becoming a cult classic over time.” Horror Talk

“It’s insane, disturbing, brilliantly realised and will have you wishing there were more films like this being made these days […] if you’re looking for something a bit different and altogether more disturbing than by the numbers multiplex horror fare, The Evil Within is absolutely worth a look.” House of Mortal Cinema

“Overall this is a movie that will grow in reputation. Its backstory, death of its director/producer and looong production have already earned it a rep, however it is the work itself, now that it is finished, that will hopefully build this into something more positive. It has authentic scares and some strong acting, with imagery that embellishes the insights into Getty’s mind.” Infernal Cinema

” …although the acting is superb, the character work is sloppy and uninsightful. The star is the ubiquitous nightmare world that is a combination of Elm Street style is-it-real-or-a-dream horror, demonic possession via mirrors and a hellish underworld, the inside of a man’s head as he goes psychotic, and best of all, lots of surreal, highly visual dream-logic.” The Worldwide Celluloid Massacre

“In The Evil Within, Dennis is doubly handicapped by both mental impairments and sociopathic tendencies. Actor Frederick Koehler plays Dennis expertly. But, the films’ weak moral message dampens the enjoyment of the film. More of a thought experiment about altered reality, The Evil Within is only visually impressive and not much else.” 28 Days Later Analysis

“Getty might not have known how to direct a film conventionally, but thank God for that. Who needs another plodding, predictable, slick slasher movie? I’ll take a strange, malfunctioning and eccentric movie over that any day, thank you very much. And for all the scoffing, this is not a badly made film at all – the camera shots, the set ups and the horror sequences are actually all handled as though the film has been made by a much more experienced filmmaker…” David Flint, MOVIES and MANIA

Main cast and characters:

  • Frederick Koehler as Dennis Peterson (American Horror Story; DexterDeath Race and sequels)
  • Sean Patrick Flanery as John Peterson (HowlersSaw 3D: The Final Chapter)
  • Dina Meyer as Lydia (SawStarship Troopers)
  • Michael Berryman as Cadaver, the demonic creature
  • Kim Darby as Mildy Torres (Halloween: The Curse of Michael MyersDon’t Be Afraid of the Dark [1973])
  • Brianna Brown as Susan (Night of the Living Dead 3D)
  • Francis Guinan as Doctor Preston (The Exorcist TV series; Constantine; Hannibal [2001]) 
  • Tim Bagley as Pete (Zombieland TV series)
  • Greyson Turner as Dennis as a child (Spooky Tales)
  • De Anna Joy Brooks as Mother
  • Nicole Brandon
  • David Light as Mutant Businessman
  • Dayna Riesgo as Monsoon Waitress
  • David Banks as Doctor
  • Sebastien Stella
  • Matthew McGrory as Tall Man at Preston’s Table [uncredited] (DarkPlaceThe Devil’s Rejects, ConstantineHouse of 1000 CorpsesThe Dead Hate the Living!)

Filming locations:

El Mirage Dry Lake, Guadalupe and Los Angeles, California, USA

Related articles:

Late Getty Heir’s Directorial Debut ‘The Evil Within’ Lands After 15 Years by Alex Ritman, The Hollywood Reporter

A millionaire, his meth addiction and the horror movie 15 years in the making by Charles Bramesco, The Guardian

Film Facts:

The film was originally titled The Storyteller

NB. The film has no connection with the 2014 survival video game of the same name.

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