Release Date: September 19, 2014 (limited and VOD)
Director: John Suits
MPAA Rating: R
Based on the graphic novel by Dan Shaffer, The Scribbler is the type of adaptation that just doesn’t work, despite being a faithful transfer of the source material, save for a few items. It tries to be weird and outlandish, bringing surreal imagery into what ultimately amounts to a superhero movie, but the weak script and low-budget feel prevent this from being anything more than a decent try.
This is too bad because the story of The Scribbler is an interesting one. The film takes place in a halfway house for people who are newly released from a mental institution and revolves around a young woman named Suki (Katie Cassidy) with dissociative identity disorder.
As she tries to acclimate to life in this weird, dilapidated tower of crazy, she periodically gives herself shock treatments in order to eliminate her multiple personalities. After women start dying one by one, it appears that one of Suki’s alters could be behind the killings. What’s worse, she begins to wonder if she herself is an alter and if these treatments will eventually remove her personality.
In the original graphic novel, the halfway house was littered with uniquely odd characters, an element that was brought over into the movie. However, for some reason, they are all played by women in this film, with the exception of Hogan (Garret Dillahunt), the only man in the entire building. This is one of the rare few deviations from the graphic novel and seems to be for the sole purpose of showing as many naked or scantily clad women as possible.
Most of the dialogue is directly lifted from the book, but like much of the movie, it simply doesn’t translate well to the screen either. This could be due to the fact that the few items that were altered or added greatly detract from the story. What works in comics doesn’t always work in live action, and The Scribbler is a prime example of this.
The visuals look like something Terry Gilliam would have churned out in the ’90s, mixing 12 Monkeys with Fight Club. This aesthetic would be okay if low-budget feel of the film didn’t make everything seem forced and uninspired. Instead of watching a gritty psychological thriller, it felt like watching one of those superhero shows on The CW. In fact, a number of actors in this film have appeared on The CW.
The Scribbler features a decent cast, yet many of the characters are underused. Sasha Grey and Gina Gershon apparently have no purpose but to be eye candy; Eliza Dushku and Michael Imperioli are featured in a tacked-on and completely pointless framing device; and everyone else is basically filler. Katie Cassidy and Garret Dillahunt are the driving forces of the film, until Michelle Trachtenberg’s character of Alice comes into play. All three actors were fine within their roles despite the poorly adapted script.
Maybe if it had been presented differently, The Scribbler would have worked as a good comic adaptation, but the very few items thrown in to Hollywood-ize it prove to be a detriment. That being said, there’s still a really interesting story here, so it may be worth checking out in graphic novel form rather than in this bland, ’90s-esque superhero flick.