The Double Born Reviews
WRITTEN AND DIRECTED BY: Tony Randell
FEATURING: Sammi Davis, Jon Lindstrom, Jake Bern, Alex Weed, Jenny Dare Paulin, Lindsey Girardot
GENRE: PSYCHOLOGICAL THRILLER
TAGS: occult, mystery, horror
RATING: 6 PINTS OF BLOOD
PLOT: A pair of psychotic young men form an unhealthy alliance with a disturbed woman who is convinced they are linked from beyond the grave to her dead child.
COMMENTS: They say misery loves company, but in The Double Born, so does mental illness. When a frenzied woman named Sophonisba (Sammi Davis) hires 20-somethings Harry and Tommy (Bern and Weed) to help out around her homestead, she has more in mind for them than a little painting and rail splitting. So too, do the demented duo, who it turns out are quite simply not right in the head. Tommy and Harry have an odd hobby, one that plays on their less than wholesome fascination with pointy things.
Sharp poiny things.
Desperately seeking pregnancy after mourning the disappearance and presumed death of an earlier child, the buxom Sophonisba seduces the boys.
Over and over!
Sensing that Tommy and Harry have a supernatural link to her first born, she forces them to participate in peculiar occult rituals during which Tommy and Harry exhibit a talent for enabling Sophonisba to channel the spirit of her astray issue. It turns out Sophonisba is dead right about Tommy and Harry, but not in the way she thinks. Like sediment precipitating to the bottom of a septic tank, the temarious trio settles into an uneasy alliance founded on sex and overlapping but mutually exclusive obsessions. Isolated, unsupervised, Tommy, Sophonisba, and Harry, court and taunt each other far removed from the intervention of sounder minds. Inevitably, their contrary interests erode their unstable amalgamation, plunging them into an Arcadian bedlam.
With The Double Born, Tony Randell, who directed Hellraiser II, brings us a gritty, Southern Gothic style story, which is depraved and upsetting in the tradition of Sam Shepard's 1978 Pulitzer-winning play, Buried Child. Randell claims The Double Born is based on Bram Stoker's darkly perverse short story, "The Dualitists; or, the Death Doom of the Double Born." Antagonists Tommy and Harry are indeed inspired by the Stoker story's knife-wielding blatherskites, but then Randel's screenplay U-turns, taking a major departure from its namesake.
Sophonisba is a road-worn trailer-court version of Tennessee Williams's Blanche DuBois, and the charred soul, dejected supporting characters are right out of a Nelson Algren novel. They are cast in the desolately rustic setting of William Faulkner's white-trash classic, "A Barn Burning," and silhouetted against a tallow candle-lit, deep mountain isolation fright factor in the tradition of Southern horror writer Manly Wade Wellman's Appalachian hoodoo occult stories.
The Double Born is a small budget independent effort with grainy photography, selectively muted chromatography, and serpentine, sequences of intimately close shots. These elements combine with dingy lighting, gloomy skies, and remote settings, way, way out miles from any corrective influences.
The aura all of this creates is unsettling. It is born of the film's micro-financing. Randell's cinematic style is a bit reminiscent of early German Expressionist cinema. Those films made up for a lack of lavish funding by employing art design that featured geometric exaggeration, and patterns of brightness and shadow painted on walls and floors to represent lights, shadows, and objects. Like The Double Born, those Expressionist plots were often themed on madness, and betrayal.
Randell presents his picture with claustrophobic tight frames, low angles, and innovative visual exposition, such as a scene shot directly through Sophonisba 's fortune teller crystal ball. The action unfolding on the other side of the crystal orb becomes eerily inverted. The effect is foreboding; the characters' perception of their own reality is backwards as well.
In The Double Born, the constant sparring and mutual provocation of perverse libidos and volatile psyches creates a tension which is like watching miscreants toy with matches atop a powder keg. There's an undercurrent of sexual pressure and the lurking, ever present specter of schizophrenic violence ready to cut loose at any time. Randell ladles out this disturbing menu in measured portions, delivering his story with a maddeningly plodding, deliberate pace. The effect is like trying to constrain water from a fire hose with a bathroom spigot. Something has to give eventually, and when it does you just know it's going to make a horrid mess.