While it’s unlikely to find itself high on the totem pole of graphic novel/comic book adaptations, The Scribbler is a pretty fun movie filled with ideas and thoughts that … it ultimately doesn’t really do a whole lot with, but whatever. It talks a lot about conformity and mental illness — and the treatment thereof — but then settles all of its problems with a stylized but otherwise not terribly impressive action scene. It’s just weird enough to work.
Our protagonist is Suki (Katie Cassidy), someone who suffers from multiple personality disorder, and also probably schizophrenia. She’s finally “recovered” enough to be released into a halfway house, which here is a large apartment building. How is she being treated? Well, she gets hooked up to a machine and undergoes a procedure known as “The Siamese Burn.” The process fries part of her brain and cuts down on the number of personalities she has. I think she began the film with a dozen, and by the time the plot really kicks into action, she’s down to 6. It works, but sometimes leaves her waking up days later, having no idea what her body did — controlled by one of the personalities — during that time.
And, believe it or not, as soon as she moves into this building, people start committing suicide. Well, they do so at a higher rate than before — and the rate before was 36%, so you can only imagine how frequently people are jumping to their deaths. And all of the suicides happen after Suki used her machine and had no idea what’s happening. Most of The Scribbler takes place during a police interrogation, during which time a cop (Michael Imperioli) and a psychiatrist (Eliza Dushku) listen to Suki tell them her version of the events.
Essentially what The Scribbler boils down to is Suki trying to solve this mystery, while also finding out that there’s the potential that this machine might fry her real personality and leave one of the “other” ones. The film at times ponders exactly what a “real” personality even is, and raises questions regarding identity and sanity. It … kind of answers some of them, I guess.
What The Scribbler does do is keep us intrigued for almost its entire running time. For most of the film, it really does look like it’s one of Suki’s identities that’s doing the murders, and watching her internal struggle with this is compelling. Sometimes we get to hear her multiple personalities in the form of overlapping voiceovers. It’s weird but it’s also interesting, and you want to see how it all plans on playing out.
The film has been shot with a stylized aesthetic, done partly to capture the look of the comic book, but also probably for budget reasons. You shoot something a certain way, and you can get away with financial shortcomings. As a result, The Scribbler doesn’t often look cheap, save for when it tries to use a great deal of special effects, which mostly show up near the end in that aforementioned action scene. There’s a bit of weird technology before that, but it’s mostly done practically and looks good.
It’s surprising the quality of cast the filmmakers attracted to this project. The good acting certainly helps the film. Katie Cassidy in the leading role was a good decision. She plays a fractured individual really well. In supporting roles, we have Michelle Trachtenberg, Eliza Dushku, Michael Imperioli, Billy Campbell, Garret Dillahunt, Sasha Grey, and Kunal Nayyar. That’s not a cast to laugh at. These are (mostly) accomplished actors who may not all be household names — if any of them are — but are good in small roles in this film.
The Scribbler ultimately doesn’t take full advantage of its premise — it raises a lot of questions and mentions a lot of topics that it doesn’t really want to answer or fully explore — but it’s a stylish adaptation of a graphic novel that is certainly worth watching if you’re a fan of the original work, of graphic novels in general, or just want to see a different take on the “is he/she crazy?” genre. It’s weird, and I’m sure some people will outright hate it, but I had a lot of fun with The Scribbler.