I have a deep affinity for short horror films. When you think about it, it is profoundly difficult to establish high-blood pressure, brick-labor inducing, nail-biting tension with brutal efficiency in give or take ten minutes of screen time, so when a daring film maker with vision and skill pulls it off with apparent ease it never fails to surprise a wily lass like me.
Drew Daywalt has a respectable and storied horror short resume which you can check out right HERE and his chilling 2010 effort Doppelganger is no exception. The premise is remarkably simple (and arguably inherently goofy) on paper, but in order to make the material burst from the confines of the page and onto the screen was undoubtedly a task Daywalt took seriously.
A young dame by the name of Ashley, is waiting in the tube to head home after a long day at work. She receives a disturbing phone call from her beloved partner Greg who hurriedly implores her not to venture back home because he is in danger, and that she will be in danger as well if she arrives home. What happens next is something I simply cannot and will not spoil because it is integral to the overall impact of the feature. While not upfront in its horror, the truly frightening notions lie in the implications which the film leaves up in the air by the time that final black screen flashes before your eyes.
The idea and the concept of doppelgangers has always been a point of interest for me. Imagine it; somewhere in the world, an entity, human or otherwise, has your face, your body and your voice, a walking testament to the questioning of one’s individuality in this world and perhaps ones’ own mortality. Imagine also if that doppelganger became aware of you and decided there was only room in the world for one of you. What deceit could they weave, what torment could they create and what would it do if you finally came face to face? One of the most prominent of examples of doubles which deals with this is Edgar Allen Poes’ short tale William Wilson which involves a man, William Wilson, realising he shares the world with a menacing duplicate which eventually causes Wilson to descend into madness. Perhaps the most well-known adaptation of Poes’ story is the second segment in the anthology film Spirits of the Dead directed by Louis Malle. It’s a fascinating collection of films featuring directorial efforts by Roger Vadim and Federico Fellini, check it out!
For a five minute film, Doppelganger manages to achieve more than enough suspense and retrospective anxiety than most full-length feature films. Daywalts’ direction and story-telling is efficient, economical and creative and his actors are as real as you and I. As usual, Daywalt doesn’t particularly favor bells and whistles, instead he motions toward the importance of giving the audience enough of a clue without resorting to clumsy exposition, over the top violence and sensationalism. This approach may be off-putting to those who prefer their horror with a little more flair, but make no mistake, Doppelganger will persuade you to muse into the darkness of the night as to whether or not you are truly you, the people you love are the ones you know and whether or not you are a player or a pawn.