The Aisle Seat - Movie Reviews by Mike McGranaghan
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THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan


The Scribbler

The Scribbler has former porn star Sasha Grey wearing bunny ears, a dog who talks with a Cockney accent, and a heroine who can use her body like a dry erase board. Have I convinced you to see it yet? This is not a movie you would necessarily call conventionally “good,” but it certainly is fun. Oh boy, is it fun. The Scribbler has a gloriously bonkers quality to it that just sucks you right in. It will not be surprising in the least if it eventually goes on to amass a passionate cult following.

Katie Cassidy plays Suki, a young woman with Dissociative Identity Disorder. She's moved into an apartment complex for people with severe mental health disorders. In addition to the bunny-eared Grey, they include a woman (Gina Gershon) with a large snake perpetually draped around her neck, a chick named Alice (Michelle Trachtenberg) who makes Goth people look like the Amish, and Hogan (Garrett Dillahunt), a guy who is intent on having sex with every female in the building. Suki's psychiatrist has her undergoing a treatment known as “the Siamese Burn.” This involves hooking herself up to a special machine that eliminates one of her alternate personalities every time she uses it. Among the “alters” inside of her is “the Scribbler,” who cannot speak but can write backwards. (She can also write on Suki's body.) No sooner does Suki move into the building than its other tenants begin dying. Michael Imperioli and Eliza Dushku play, respectively, a cop and a psychologist trying to figure out whether Suki – or the Scribbler – is responsible.

The Scribbler is based on the 2006 graphic novel by Daniel Schaffer, who also wrote the screenplay. Comic book-based movies have obviously risen in stature over the last decade or so. They've become gigantic, expensive special effects extravaganzas that often rank among the most popular films of the year. This movie doesn't have the budget to match, say, Guardians of the Galaxy, yet it more than makes up for that with creativity. It fundamentally feels like an especially out-there comic come to life. Director John Suits (Static) uses a variety of techniques to give The Scribbler a surreal style. Spinning cameras, flashy editing, stylized lighting, disembodied voices on the soundtrack to represent Suki's personalities, and backwards writing printed onscreen at the start of each new “chapter” of the story are among them. Even the sex scene between Suki and Hogan is unconventionally photographed; it uses the alternately sped-up/slowed-down style of the action scenes in 300, then dramatically blurs the edges of the screen for extra ambiance. Everything adds up to create a unique vibe. Lots of movies are based on graphic novels. None of them feel like this one.

The visual scheme matches the wild, unpredictable quality of the story, and so do the performances. Katie Cassidy always struck me as a somewhat bland actress in films like Monte Carlo and the Nightmare on Elm Street remake. Tasked with playing a character in possession of extreme mental health issues, though, she completely comes alive on screen. She's badass when needed, crazy when it's called for, and fantastic throughout. Garrett Dillahunt (Raising Hope) is the other standout, bringing an off-kilter sense of humor to the role of a guy who has seemingly embraced his mental health disorder because it provides an excuse to have a lot of sex. The supporting players – Trachtenberg, Gershon, Grey, Dushku, and Imperioli – all add wonderfully bizarre flavoring to the mix by giving their characters some sort of unusual twist or trait.

Admittedly, the exploration of mental health issues in The Scribbler isn't very deep. The plot had room to go into that a little more. The story's villain is a bit underdeveloped, as well, as is the motive behind the killings. Those flaws may turn off some viewers. Then again, comic books are, in and of themselves, generally short and punchy, and that's what The Scribbler is, too. The movie is intentionally structured like a sci-fi adventure based on the hallucinations of a schizophrenic. Everything and everyone is off balance. Suki doesn't know what's real and what isn't, and neither do we. The crazy, tongue-in-cheek tone allows for one insane sequence after another. The Scribbler is fearless in its willingness to go right over the edge, which makes it a treat for fans of science-fiction madness. And I'm one of them.

( out of four)

The Scribbler is rated R for violent images, some strong sexuality/nudity, and language. The running time is 1 hour and 28 minutes.

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