Oh, diabolical duplicity! There are abominations out there in the world; twisted hive minds dually cast in humanizing flesh and blood. Society would have us believe them harmless, perhaps even friendly. Science might even agree. Film, however, has shown us the facts of the case. These dastardly duos, these insidious inseparables, these twins, as they are colloquially called, they are out there in the world, waiting, scheming, and conniving your imminent and bloody destruction!
Evil twins want to destroy the world!
You may know a pair of twins or two. I have. They might seem like wonderful and relatively normal people. But the fact remains there is filmic evidence that they are all, in fact, very, very bad people who are prone to insanity, vampirism, possession, and Satan worship. I will now bring you seven examples that should persuade even the mothers of these beings; seven horrific films featuring, or at least casting a bring spotlight upon, the sinister dealings of identical twins of evil.
Dead Ringers (1988)
David Cronenberg brought us a particularly disturbing set of twins in Dead Ringers, a story about two gynecologists slowly disintegrating into barbiturate laden insanity. These two men, while physically identical, have a number of differing character traits. Elliot is a smooth ladies man, easily and rather unapologetically womanizing anything in a skirt. Identical brother Beverly is a tad more sensitive and socially awkward; however, sometimes Elliot will pass off his old lovers to Beverly, unbeknownst to the lover involved. The two men casually exchange their identities with one another in order to convenience their goals, whether those goals are romance or business. It’s slimy, effective, and wholly believable.
While the men are certainly eccentric and unique, it’s interesting that the main cause of the twins’ downfall in this film is arguably not an inherent insanity, their creepy identity exchanges, or any other inborn weakness. Rather it was the more mundane (though still devastating) affliction of drug induced psychosis that reduces them to dirt. If Beverly could have just kicked off the pills and injections, the two might have had a fate far less dark; though then we might never have gotten to see those wonderfully Giger-esque surgical toys. Perhaps the trade off is fair.
Jeremy Irons’ lead performance as both Beverly and Elliot is masterful. Watching this film, it’s hard to keep in mind that you are really looking at the same actor chatting with himself through the magic of film. While obviously identical, both Beverly and Elliot have distinct personalities that make them readily believable as separate individuals. There are many, many scenes which feature both ‘twins’, speaking with one another in involved and sometimes emotionally charged conversation, and never will you feel you’re watching the same actor playing dual roles. This is simply a brilliant film.
The Shining (1980)
In the category of screen time versus iconic infamy, no set of twins has a higher ratio than that of Lisa and Louise Burns, the two young actresses hired to stand still and just look creepy. There was something sincerely spooky when Danny rounded that corner on his big wheel in that long, long hallway and saw those two sinister looking girls standing there, patiently waiting for him to come out to play, forever. With only a couple lines of spoken dialogue between them, these two girls have to go down in evil twins infamy as the biggest bang for your buck; just them standing there with their creepy little girl half-smiles was enough to give me the shivers.
Interestingly enough, this was the only film that these two girls ever took part in. Various FAQs around the internet report that the girls scorned film in favor of academia. Lisa won a degree in literature and language, and Louise is a microbiologist. Their being one of the spookiest sets of twins in film has to make for some occasional interesting talk about the lab.
Twins of Evil (1971)
Bad twins are no strangers to vampirism, and there isn’t a much better example than Hammer’s Twins of Evil (a title so wonderful as to make the subject line of this article). The film stars real life twins and playboy playmates Madeleine and Mary Collinson as two young and attractive girls in moral peril, as well as Peter Cushing doing God’s work in the anti-hero character of Gustav Weil. Our attractive twins get themselves somewhat mixed up with a local vampire in league with Satan. Soon, new fangs are grown; it’s then up to the puritanical witch killer Gustav Weil to figure out just who’s head needs chopping off and he’s definitely a man willing to do the job.
Peter Cushing plays his role like a human version of the praying mantis; his bright and intense eyes seem to hypnotize as he aggressively burns witches to death in the name of God. He’s not a very sympathetic character, of course, and the film raises some questions regarding his fallibility in being able to calculate just who needs to die. The result is an interesting anti-hero who undoubtedly has caused some collateral damage in his relentless pursuit in vanquishing Satan in all his forms, up to and including attractive twin sisters.
This film is the third in Hammer’s Karnstein Trilogy, the first two being The Vampire Lovers and Lust for a Vampire, respectively. While the films have obvious atmospheric and vampiric similarities, they are most known for their themes of lesbianism. Twins of Evil is certainly very tame by modern standards; however it doesn’t (or, shouldn’t) disappoint anyone looking for old Hammer film style entertainment. Unfortunately Twins of Evil isn’t yet readily available on DVD, so you might have to settle for still images for the moment. Proper use of Google just might locate old pictures of the Collinson twins, which might interest at least some of you. Have fun.
The Black Room (1935)
Every now and then the seeds of evil sew themselves into just one of the two twins, and when this happens it’s usually with a vengeance. Instead of evil that is relatively dispersed between two individuals, you instead have a dense evil so compacted that it approaches a hellish black singularity. Such it is with the Bergmann brothers in The Black Room; one’s a charmer, the other quite the devil.
Anton Bergmann is a really, really nice guy. It makes it hard to believe then that the family prophecy could ever be true; that someday, down the line, good brother Anton will somehow get around to killing evil twin brother Gregor in the mysterious black room of the family castle. Gregor, who scoffs at the prophecy, doesn’t mind making life for Anton extremely uncomfortable when doing so can extend the power of his barony. Such it is then that this mystery thriller pits the evil actions of one extremely bad twin brother against the adamant will of fate.
The Black Room stars Boris Karloff in the roles of both of the brothers. It features some very early movie effects work in having both brothers on screen at once in mutual conversation. Karloff’s character work in this film is well done and charming, if only somewhat exaggerated; the evil and arrogant Gregor is played to the max with leers and jeers, while the goodly brother Anton always carries a pleasant expression one might wear while skipping through daisies. This is an entertaining film for those of us who enjoy the old black and whites, and is certainly solid early evidence to prove just how much bad news twins can be.
The Other (1972)
Films are, among other things, a bit like time capsules from the time they were made. Even if the current modern era has nothing to do with the subject matter at hand, it just can’t be helped that the stuff of the decade seeps into the cracks of a given movie project. Some films are a bit more porous than others. The Other, made in 1972, is among that population. This is a film that just drips with the 70’s; it oozes with it, dribbles, and will likely leave one of those hard to clean up 1970’s stains on your coffee table if you leave the DVD sitting out too long. This thing actually has John Ritter before Three’s Company became a household word. It’s that potent!
The twins of ruinous intentions here are played by real world twins Chris and Martin Udvarnoky, two yellow headed scamps with a penchant for setting up deadly traps for family members and friends. Niles is the more subservient of the two; it’s set up rather early that the “elder” brother (for one was born first), Holland, is the main cause of woe. Niles doesn’t seem capable of resisting his brothers influence, and soon enough the two boys are causing all sorts of horrible things to happen. However, be assured that this isn’t a simple tale of two Dennis the Menace clones on a thrill kill binge; there’s a bit of a twist going on that makes it all the more memorable.
This film feels magnificently dated, but should be loved all the more for it. This was an effective feature back in its decade, and enjoyed some popularity in repeated TV showings. I saw it when I was myself a small yellow-headed trouble maker, and it certainly gave me the heebie-jeebies back then; enough that when it was finally released to DVD I didn’t hesitate to grab a copy. Give it a shot, and if you can get past the decade it reeks of you’ll have a creepy atmospheric story with a classic twist.
Basket Case (1982)
Henenlotter films are almost their own subgenre. They are absurd, preposterous, offensive, gory, and not shy at all about naked people. They often feature bizarre monsters, or strange animated corpses, all done with lots of mechanical effects, stop motion animation, and good old-fashioned puppets. Summing all those parts together, they’re marvelous, and I wish there were more of them. One of the most infamous of the lot also features a rather disturbing set of twins, and that film is none other than the notorious Basket Case.
This film takes an extreme look at the rather familiar good twin/bad twin construct that we all know and love. The film’s main protagonist is the socially awkward and seemingly all around good guy Dwayne Bradley, who shows up in New York to try to map out a new chapter in life. Amongst his luggage, he totes along a large wicker basket that, soon enough, is shown to be the primary dwelling (or at least travel lodge) of his horrifically malformed twin brother. Dwayne, the fresh kid in the big city, manages to get himself into a lot of trouble, and his monstrous brother makes things even worse.
As with all of Henenlotter films, Basket Case is outrageous and hysterical. The image of Dwayne’s brother, little more than a big head with glassy eyes, set on top muscle-bound shoulders and stumpy arms, is immediately recognizable to the point of being iconic for the genre. One of the most memorable scenes, at least to me, was where the mutant brother manages to drag himself atop a rather well-endowed and sleeping young woman and cops himself a pretty long and extended feel. It’s an awkward scene, tense due to the expectation of what will happen if she wakes up, and it’s only made all the more hilarious by simply seeing this weird assed puppet pawing at this poor woman’s boobs. This is good stuff. Go see it and try to tell me I’m wrong.
Before Carrie ever fatefully climbed onto the stage to stand under a bucket of blood, before Scarface ever introduced his little friend to his invading guests, before Wiseguys ever perforated a bloody gangster stuffed in a trunk, there was Sisters, the first of Brian de Palma’s films to receive significant popular and industrial recognition which helped to launch his career to what it is now. Sisters pays homage to the great Hitchcock in its reference to Rear Window as well as in its overall style and structure; and the whole effort pays off in blood, style, and twin sister weirdness.
Siamese twins might be evil enough, but when they’re orphans raised by nuns you know you’re in for a lot of trouble. Twins Danielle and Dominique Blanchion (both played by Margot Kidder) have been quite attached most of their lives, until a fateful surgery strikes them free from one another. As at least one of the two is a tad psychotic, blood soon flows, cake hits the floor, and a young female reporter, Grace Collier, makes it her mission to solve the mystery of these two crazy and potentially evil twin sisters.
As with all of de Palma’s films, there is a lot going on in Sisters. This is one of those wonderful movies that seem to reveal a little more information with each viewing. The overall theme or commentary is one of voyeurism; the film opens with a game show based upon the thrill of watching others, and then concludes in a rather darkly humored scene involving a man doing some spying from afar. The entire thing is brilliant, beautifully constructed, and carries with it a fine pacing that flows all the way until the tense and bloody finale.
Twins, in film, often get a pretty bad rap, but it just so happens that makes for a good story. Who wants to see a film with a set of nice, normal, and well adjusted twins? Twins who are completely sane, not addicted to drugs, and not a one is the figment of the other’s imagination? Twins who are not hot female vampires with as yet undiscovered lesbian desires, who are not horrifically malformed, and have nothing at all to do with worshipping the great hoary lord of the infernal abyss? Bah! We know what we like. Twins, you two’s of the world, when we see you in film, you just have to be bad as you can possibly be. Bless you for it.
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