Dead Ringers

04/21/2021 06:29

Film: Dead Ringers

Year: 1988

Director: David Cronenberg

Writer: David Cronenberg and Norman Snider

Starring: Jeremy Irons, Geneviève Bujold and Heidi von Palleske



This was a movie that I’ve been meaning to see for awhile. I had it on a list of films for October, but for whatever reason, I didn’t get around to it. This was one that appeared on lists and I knew this was lesser talked about David Cronenberg. I finally gave it a viewing as part of February 2021’s Movie Club Challenge for the Podcast Under the Stairs. The synopsis here is twin gynecologist take full advantage of the fact that nobody can tell them apart, until their relationship begins to deteriorate over a woman.

We start this movie off back in the 50’s. Our main characters are not quite teens yet and they are the twins of Beverly (Jonathan Haley) and Elliot (Nicholas Haley). They seem to know what sex is, but more on a scientific level. The two go to a local girl who is sitting on her porch where they ask an inappropriate question. She is a bit rougher than them and mocks the two. We then get to see this duo while they’re in medical school about a decade later. They’ve created an instrument that their teacher scoffs at, but ends up becoming the standard. They’re gifted and making an early name for themselves.

The movie then takes us to present time. Our twins are now both portrayed by Jeremy Irons. Beverly is the best gynecologist in what seems to be Toronto. They’re some of the leading minds in fertility for women. Elliot doesn’t really seem to practice much and does more with the research. He’s more of the smooth talker as well that presents the ideas through papers and conferences. An actress comes into their private practice, Claire (Geneviève Bujold). Elliot is intrigued by her and stands in, pretending to be Beverly. He ends up going home with her where they have sex.

Upon returning home, Elliot wants Beverly to go to her. It appears that they’ve done this previously. It isn’t very ethical, but Beverly is timid and according to Elliot, would still be a virgin if not for him. Beverly does as he’s told and at first is intimidated by Claire. He ends up falling for her though. Elliot wants him to cut her off, as she seems to be somewhat using him for drugs.

She doesn’t realize they’re twins. She scolds them both at dinner, but Beverly has fallen in love with her. Spending time with her though starts him on a dark path that will lead him to addiction. Elliot though needs his twin. There is a codependent relationship here that will cause the perfect life they’ve created to spiral out of control.

I feel that gets you up to speed with the story here. This is really an interesting film from Cronenberg. What I wanted to say first, I know that he transitioned into not making horror films in the 2000s, this feels like him starting to do that. This movie isn’t traditional horror. We’re really seeing Beverly and eventually Elliot descend into madness. Their path leads them on a horrific journey that includes addiction, but we see it in a way where the path makes sense for them to end up where they do.

Where I should delve into next would the characters of Elliot and Beverly. They’re both brilliant. Elliot seems to be one who is taking advantage of Beverly from what I gather in the beginning. He’s the one who likes to go to the parties and smooth talk people. He’s good at it. Beverly is the one who works better in the science itself. There’s an interesting scene where Elliot reveals he’s been accepted in this professor role and this means that Beverly will take on more patient at their practice. He doesn’t really seem to care as long as the research is still being done. This helps with the downfall of this duo for sure.

What I found interesting is what starts this path that I wanted to go to next. Claire is seduced by Elliot. After she’s been groomed, Beverly steps in. This is a horrible thing to do, but I’ll leave that there. Beverly doesn’t really want to go, but he falls for her. She really seems to like him as well. There is a symbiotic relationship that grows here. She is getting drugs from Beverly and he becomes addicted to her. Through this, he starts to use pills. It is interesting that she asks about addiction with doctors and this is what ends up happening with him. Elliot is to blame here for pushing Beverly to take advantage of her.

Getting back to the addiction portion of this, Irons does an amazing job with his performance. It is one thing to play these two different types of characters. One is very confident in social situations where the other is awkward. He does such a great job at playing both. To add to all of this, portraying this drug addict while the other is trying to get him clean is great on top of that. There is then the madness they descend into which plays with the idea of the first conjoined; they call them Siamese twin, of Chang and Ang. These two I don’t believe were conjoined at birth, but we get a lot of images of this during the credits. They have more of a mental joining of the two as opposed to a physical one. There is an interesting piece of dialogue between Elliot and Cary (Heidi Palleske). She wants him to distance himself from Beverly, but he states whatever he is putting in his body, goes into his blood stream. He can’t do his portion of their work without Beverly. This really shows that codependency.

For the rest of the cast, they do well in molding Irons to where he ends up. Bujold is really the catalyst here. It is interesting Elliot pushes Beverly into seeing her, part of this being that she seems to be a pretty famous actress. Bujold shows a good range of emotions from being hurt by what they do to really caring about him. She is really understated for how things play out. Aside from that, I think the rest do well in support when needed.

Really the last thing that I wanted to go into would be the effects. This isn’t your typical body horror that we were getting from Cronenberg. There is a nightmare sequence where get some of that and it is creepy while also look pretty realistic. We don’t get a lot of blood either, as this is more psychological. The effects all seem to be practical and I think they look good. I like how they were able to frame shots with having Irons playing both characters. It looks like there could be two of them. I would say that the cinematography is well done overall.

In conclusion here, I’m finally glad that I ticked this movie off my list. It is really an amazing character study of these twins who are conjoined, but definitely are codependent on each other. Irons performance as both of them is absolutely amazing and could be the best of his career to be honest. The rest of the cast rounded this out for what was needed. We don’t get a lot in the way of effects, but we also don’t need them to convey this story. The last thing would be the soundtrack fit for what was needed for sure. I would say that this is great movie. This is one I could recommend to horror and non-horror fans alike for its subject matter and how it is presented.


My Rating: 9 out of 10