I hadn’t been to a Terror Tuesday at Alamo in a while, due to the fact that for the past three months I have signed myself up for a ridiculous amount of work, and at times it was physically impossible for me to be in two to three places at once, unfortunately. Not to mention a ridiculous cold that went around the city like wildfire, but what better film to return to Alamo to than David Cronenberg’s 1988 weirdo-twin movie, DEAD RINGERS.
Please don’t judge me for what I’m about to say because I love David Cronenberg more than about 98% of other directors in the world, but I had never seen DEAD RINGERS until seeing it at Alamo on Tuesday. It is one of only two Cronenberg films that I haven’t seen (the other one being Spider and I plan on remedying that as soon as possible), and I’m so so glad that I got to see it for the first time on the silver screen, like all films should be seen in my humble opinion.
What made the screening even more fun and somewhat of a Meta move on Alamo programmer Cristina Cacioppo’s part is that the host of this screening was director of the upcoming sci-fi horror thriller CAM, Daniel Goldhaber. The film is going to be released in select theaters (including Alamo Drafthouse NYC) and on Netflix November 16th. It has made its rounds through the festival circuit, so if you’ve already seen the film, you might be surprised that Goldhaber considers CAM to be a “twin movie”, which is not something that I really took into account myself and now I want to rewatch it with that knowledge in mind. If you want to give yourself a really great cinematic experience I would suggest watching DEAD RINGERS before seeing CAM. Goldhaber said DEAD RINGERS was a big influence on his film.
Now about the actual movie, for those of you, who like me up until Tuesday, who haven’t seen DEAD RINGERS. It is based on the book Twins by Bari Good, which is very surprisingly (or maybe not because you know MEN) based in part on the real life story of Stewart and Cyril Marcus, who were twin gynecologists on staff at New York Hospital-Cornell Medical Center. In the film, the twins are named Elliot and Beverly Mantle, both played brilliantly by the amazing Jeremy Irons. The twin gynecologists share everything, a practice, an apartment, and women.
Since Elliot and Beverly are twins, it is definitely difficult for people to tell them apart, which is the way the twins like it, Elliot more so than Beverly. Elliot is the confident one and Beverly is more reserved. Beverly is the twin who conducts their groundbreaking medical research; Elliot is the one who makes the speeches. It all makes sense to them. Where one brother has weakness, the other excels, so the two of them remain together for their own benefit. In regards to the twin’s love lives, Elliot is the one who’s better with women. So, their (gross and borderline rapey) arrangement is that Beverly dates the girls after Elliot gets tired of them, which he always does.
Their lives and this sexually deviant arrangement the twins have serve them well until actress Claire Niveau enters the twins lives via a gynecological visit. I hope to God that in real life male gynecologists don’t typically pick up their patients, but in this film, they do. First Elliot sleeps with Ms. Niveau and then foists her on his brother Beverly. Beverly is hesitant to do it this time, but does anyway, because he does pretty much whatever Elliot tells him. Unlike most of their deceptive hook-ups, however, Beverly ends up falling in love with Claire.
Eventually of course Claire finds out, and you’d think that would be the biggest shock of the film, but it definitely is not. At this point in DEAD RINGERS, Beverly has taken on a rather serious drug habit and Elliot doesn’t know what to do with him. Beverly thinks Claire is having an affair when she’s on an out of town film shoot (she isn’t), which causes his emotional and mental state to further deteriorate. Eventually, Elliot finds himself descending down the same spiral his brother did, while Beverly’s on his way back up. Neither twin ends up the same, because they appear to have switched places.
DEAD RINGERS is a staunchly Cronenbergian psycho-sexual drama that gets weirder and weirder and weirder until the credits roll and you heave a sigh of disbelieving relief. Not that the film is bad, but the journey you go on with the film is so shocking and unexpected, it’s nice to be back in nice “normal” reality when it’s over. Cronenberg is a master at exploring the darker side of the human psyche, most of the time in his earlier works, this is manifested through body horror. DEAD RINGERS hints at his future as a filmmaker by relying less on special effects and more on storytelling to freak you the hell out. It’s an amazing film and you should absolutely seek it out. Thanks Alamo for giving me the opportunity to see it in the theater. Yall are the best!