Dead Ringers

UK Release Date 1988
Director David Cronenberg
Starring Jeremy Irons & Jeremy Irons
Runtime 116 Minutes
Certificate 18
Reviewer Mark
Reviewed 3rd June 2014

Twin gynaecologists, Elliot and Beverly Mantle are interior creatures. They swim, shark, snake around their cold, austere world, an aquarium to their genius, and their clinical guard against reality. Both feast upon the insecurities of the women they treat, Elliot the suave predator testing the sexual current before tossing the circumspect Beverly his female chum line of used body parts.

The Mantles behave like a breed apart, an alien race rinsing a single soul around the skin of two bodies. Elliot is the money, the panache, and the razzmatazz, “I’ve often thought there should be beauty contests for the insides of bodies.”  Beverly is the research, the graft, the real genius, “I slave over the hot snatches.”  This duplicitous, amorphous creature can read the insides of a woman like organic Braille, the gift of life not always theirs to give but with brutally scientific reason theirs to devour for all time.  

When Claire, an actress addicted to a cocktail cabinet of prescription drugs descends into their lives, the twins slowly unravel. Elliot ensnares her first and quickly tires of her, “I’m not into art. I’m into glamour.”  Her beauty captivates Beverly, secretly he marvels at her ability to self-medicate; alter her moods at will, a chemical distraction from her infertility. Beverly gradually slips away from Elliot into a vortex of pills his own hideous addiction to Claire.

Elliot and Beverly wrestle for control over their communal soul, a theological and philosophical battle that becomes physically debilitating for both of them. When Beverly tries to detox but threatens to take a downer, Elliot compensates by taking an upper to counter his addiction. Throughout Cronenberg’s film their personalities become, blurred, entwined or just down right confused, twin doppelgangers, impersonations of impersonations. 

Towards the climax when their paranoia is all consuming the imagery is horrific. Beverly tries to operate with instruments specially constructed for “mutant” women that look like dissected parts of the facehugger from Alien. “There’s nothing wrong with the instrument, it’s the body. The woman’s body is all wrong!” His operating theatre is a macabre affair; a torture chamber presided over by the Spanish Inquisition, a three-way dance between the twins and a colleague a menagerie of limbs.

Dead Ringers is a tumultuous descent into the madness of self-discovery. Cronenberg’s extrinsic body horror of The Fly is sucked into the unseen crevices of the flesh. Jeremy Irons totally inhabits both Elliot and Beverly, stitching their existential fear all over their bodies and minds. Irons’ performance is a tour-de-force of exasperation and terror, ingenious cunning, hypnotising the audience time and time again. As Beverly says, “Separation can be a…terrifying thing.”

Check out the trailer here.

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