THE DOUBLE BORN
Reviewed by: JimmyO
What's it about
A mentally unbalanced woman finds herself drawn to two teenage boys hired to help her paint the house. Already desperate to have a child, she is soon luring the troubled young men into her life to help fill an empty void left by the loss of her son. But desperation and loneliness can sometimes lead to an even darker path.
Is it good movie?
There is something deep and dark buried in Tony Randelís The Double Born. While clearly a low budget feature, it makes up for that with a haunting story that slowly unveils secrets and pain, shrouded in murder. Loosely adapted from the Bram Stokerís ďThe Dualitists; or, The Death Doom of the Double BornĒ, this modern retelling features a desperate woman looking to find that empty void left from the loss of her child. Sammi Davis plays Sophonisba, a mentally fragile woman whoís first major scene is a daring one. She climbs upon her sleeping husband (Jon Lindstrom) and proceeds to f*ck him. And frankly. Sammiís performance is astounding. It is fearless, shocking and truly a revelation. While Iíve always liked her work, this is beyond what I wouldíve expected. Her slightly strained southern drawl and the emotional highs and lows she hits is simply brilliant. This is the kind of performance that would be rewarded with major nominations if this had been a larger, studio picture.
Sure the story may seem familiar (TO DIE FOR), it still feels original and surprisingly unique. It revolves around a couple of young men, Harry (Jake Bern) and Tommy (Alex Weed) who seem to take a little too much pleasure in violence. When the boys begin working for Sophonisba, Sophie for short, the three wounded characters decent into a very dark, yet exciting triangle. But all is not as it seems, especially when Sophieís husband Ephraim begins to realize something is very wrong. Thankfully, Linstrom gives such a grounded and real performance that you believe every step as to why he makes the decisions he does. This is a talented cast, that is all built up around the marvelous Davis. And like a house of cards, you know everything is going to come crumbling down upon them. Thankfully, the well rounded performers are up to the task.
As the film began, I did take some issue with the slight quality that is unavoidable with this kind of budget. The style felt too dark and slightly confusing. And while it didnít necessarily change throughout, it started to work in the films favor. Somehow, co-writer and director Tony Randelís style really warmed up to me on this one. Along with the extremely effective minimalist score by Peter Atkins and Randel himself , the richly creepy atmosphere seemed to fall into place. As the film progressed, I really didnít know what to expect. This is a mystery about the human psyche that reveals just enough to make it work, but never too much until the final sequence. But it is very clear that Randel and co-producer Davis (no wonder she put her heart and soul into this) put a whole lot of work into performance and setting. The cold and bleak house where much of this is shot, really lends itself to the desperation felt by Sophie and even the boys.
Video / Audio
Sammi Davis is a revelation in The Double Born. Her performance is riveting as she wanders through an emotional landscape of vulnerability and psychosis. If the movie hadnít worked at all, it still wouldíve been rewarding thanks to Ms. Davis. Yet the film manages to cage this damaged character, and a few others, with its dark and dreary tone. Donít be frightened off by this, there is some humor to be had, and you are given room to take a breather or two. And while it may look similar to a film like TO DIE FOR (the Gus Van Sant semi-classic with Nicole Kidman) yet it offers more of an unpolished, down and dirty look at heartbreak and the violence we inflict on others due to our own pain and suffering.