When I choose to review a film it’s because something about it speaks to me. Whether it’s the premise, the setting, the look, or the cast involved, I’m willing to take a chance on pretty much anything if some of those things are there. I chose to review The Scribbler because it happened to have everything on that list: great cast, interesting idea, and it’s based on a graphic novel. I’d figure that maybe I’d stumble into something great.
The Scribbler taught me not to blindly choose films anymore.
Director: John Suits
Release Date: September 19, 2014 (VOD and iTunes)
The Scribbler follows Suki (Katie Cassidy), a woman with dissociative identity disorder who is transferred from institution to institution due to everyone’s inability to treat her illness. As her personalities take shape (namely the titular “Scribbler” who scrawls notes on her walls) and threaten the world around her. She slowly realizes that what she sees is not all that’s cracked up to be. Coincidentally, Detective Silk (Eliza Dushku) is investigating a string of suicides in the institution that began around the same time Suki was admitted.
The Scribbler has all the parts for something great, but they never assemble into anything more than an ill-conceived, incoherent mess. First of all, the film doesn’t even understand the symptoms of dissociative personality disorder. Referring to the disease as “multiple personalities,” but displaying different aspects of schizophrenia (constant voices, paranoia, horrible “cures”) thus showing a disconnect to anything knowledgeable. If the portrayal of the disease wasn’t insulting enough, than the actions Suki takes in the name of it sure will be.
Secondly, the film somehow squanders its amazing cast. You’ve got names like Katie Cassidy, Eliza Dushku, Sasha Grey, Michelle Trachtenberg, and Michael Imperioli and none of them can make the film worthwhile. The film is full of strong willed, talented women and they’re all just squashed under the weight of how wrongly put together the rest of the package is. I can’t even recommend this film for folks who are huge fans of these women as none of them is particularly enjoyable or even on screen long enough to make a difference. I’ll give Cassidy some credit though. As awful of a characterization Suki has, Cassidy tries her best to hold it together and she’s the anchor that keeps the rest of The Scribbler from floating into oblivion.
But if I had to point out a particularly egregious flaw, it’d be the script. It’s based on a graphic novel, so I can shrug off stylistic choices like the overtly dark landscape, slow motion during the sex scene (!) and fight scene, and costume quirks. But, I can’t shrug off how little of it makes sense due to the dialogue. There’s no cohesion to the narrative as the interactions between characters devolve into a juvenile definition of philosophy with each line given the kind of weighted delivery you’d see in my seventh grade one-act play. Watching the film, I tried to gauge if the dialogue was set like this in order to bridge the viewer with Suki’s blurry thoughts but the conclusion of the film clearly states this isn’t the case.
Maybe I missed something here. Maybe there’s a greater message at play that I failed to recognize. If there is one, it’s buried under lots and lots of bad decisions. A self indulgent experiment that failed to pay off so badly, it now threatens the careers of the talented people within. You just have to wonder why they signed on for this in the first place.
The Scribbler isn’t even good enough to be laughably bad.