We live in a time where most of the films that get wide theatrical releases leave little room for interpretation, incessantly explaining everything to death, with little subtext below the surface to chew on once the credits have rolled. On the opposite end of that spectrum is John Suits’ The Scribbler, a flick that quietly hit VOD over the weekend and mostly treats exposition as if it’s an infectious disease. Even when characters directly describe the things that happen, it’s still oblique and difficult to comprehend. But it sure does look cool.
Let’s see if I can describe this without my manic side taking over. A crazy-eyed Katie Cassidy (Arrow) plays Suki, a woman suffering from multiple personality disorder. She was under the care of Dr. Sinclair (Billy Campbell), who treated her using a newfangled personality-destroying piece of machinery called the Siamese Burn. Once it’s determined she’s okay to enter the world again, she takes a home version of the Siamese Burn and moves into a halfway house for mentally unstable people. Beyond being a total shithole, the apartment building has recently been the location for a string of presumed jumpers.
And so our narrative begins, with a wraparound story of Suki being questioned by Detective Silk (Eliza Dushku) and Detective Moss (Michael Imperioli) about the deaths, with the latter cop straight up assuming she murdered everyone. He might be right, however, considering Suki is plagued by a dark personality that calls itself The Scribbler, which is obsessed with writing backwards messages all over the place, sometimes with real ink and sometimes just with hallucinatory ink.
Suki’s introduction to the building is the same as our own, and we’re immediately drowning in weirdness and strange characters. There’s the sex addict Clea (Gina Gershon), the doomsaying Bunny (Sasha Grey), the always nude Emily (Ashlynn Yennie), and the stairwell-dwelling Alice (Michelle Trachtenberg). Suki is given pointers on how to make her life in the apartments better, though there’s no real rhyme or reason as far as how this place works.
Luckily, she has a friend inside, Hogan (Garret Dillahunt), who was also an ex-patient of Dr. Sinclair. He’s not exactly a ray of sunshine, but he’s interested in helping Suki get comfortable. At least, until she starts using the Siamese Burn more often. Then things start to get even weirder. Somehow. And it’s really best not to get into more details than that.
Based on the graphic novel from Dan Schaffer, who also penned the screenplay, The Scribbler is kind of a mess from beginning to end. But it’s an interesting mess, like an old scrapbook from your youth that you completely forgot about. It’s impossible for any boredom to form, as there is always some kind of befuddlement to be had with each and every scene.
Though the story is too confused to please mass audiences, Suits’ direction fits The Scribbler in with other comic book-style films. (The female-friendly cast and visual flair might make one want to compare this to Zack Snyder’s Sucker Punch, but no movie should have to suffer that comparison.) It’s a colorful trek into madness from start to finish, though the action-centric climax that the trailers tease is far too dark and rainy to be truly effective.
Still, Cassidy is a hoot at the center of this flick. Suki is a combination of emotionally disjointed adolescence, an insane person, and someone who generally just wants to live a normal life. Cassidy is mostly successful at pulling it all off, especially in the moments when she’s just barely reacting to the incredibly bizarre things happening around her. A talking dog may or may not be a part of the absurdity.
Although I can’t speak as highly about The Scribbler as I’d like, it’s certainly an experience that genre fans need to get in their lives, because there’s nothing else quite like it out there. Find it on iTunes and other VOD outlets now, and watch out for falling bodies.