2016/08/19

Execrable: Doppelganger

Doppelganger (1993)
Directed and written by Avi Nesher
Produced by William Christopher Gorog, Donald P. Borchers
Starring Drew Barrymore, George Newbern, Leslie Hope, Dennis Christopher
So few good movies are conceived in a condition of indecision, and Nesher's uncertainty of whether to produce a god-awful pastiche of either Hitchcockian thrillers or Clive Barker's gory corporeal horrors provoked this flagrant yet funny jumble of derivation and incoordination. Equipped with genre cliches (an erratic bearing, representative music box and frequent epistaxes), lush and loony Barrymore is quartered by a doltish aspiring screenwriter (Newbern, and pardon my pleonasm) during a killing spree visibly committed by her identical double -- recurrences less implausible than the residence of this uninspired simpleton and his collaborative, obnoxiously prattling ex-girlfriend (Hope) in spacious rented lodgings despite their obviously everlasting unemployment. Ungainly romantic interludes interchange with agonizing badinage between the talentless former lovers and messily predictable slaughter, and whoever's suffered the second might hope for the third. Nesher's direction is as maladroit as his inhumanly sloppy, stilted, schmaltzy script: dramatic tension is minimized in every shot where it should be essential, and an alarming bathos redounds from the synchrony of these ill-conceived scenes and Jan Kaczmarek's syrupy score. Fortunately, neither a good cast nor cinematographer were squandered here: Sven Kirsten lensed this dingy production with the eye of a periscope operator, and the Wiseauan acting is roundly, discretely wooden and hammy. At the command of deft directors, Barrymore's proven herself adequate as a leading lady, but here her only observable assets are physical, though as eye candy she's certainly more palatable than hideous Hope or hapless Newbern, attired in a rankling, reversed baseball cap in nearly every indoor scene. So often are Barrymore's foxy figure and physiognomy exploited in lascivious scenes that one wonders if she was selected at all for her better output in what frequently seems a grossly masturbatory exercise. Featuring riotous cameos from a dipping boom mike and Drew's demonstrably daffy mother Jaid, production design by a staff clearly not of this earth and more inadvertently hysterical moments than most B-movies of its caliber, Nesher's schizophrenic turkey seems occasionally emulative of both Hellraiser and Mulholland Drive despite its anteriority of the latter by nearly a decade. It's an admonitory model of how a movie oughtn't be dressed, cast, played and especially shot, as well as one of the most entertaining unintentional comedies of its genres.

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