Readers Recommendations: “Dead Ringers”

Dead_ringers_posterHey everyone, it’s Friday, time for another entry in the Reader Recommendations series!

The Reader Recommendation series is intended to help me formally pursue all the great films that commenters bring up each week in discussion which I’ve never seen. If there’s a movie that comes up that I haven’t seen, but you think I should, email me @ or let me know in the comments that you’d like to participate!
This time up, our movie recommendation comes from Blain Granado of Cineosphere, who’s suggested David Cronenbergs′s pvglg76kvzuxar20lxls“Dead Ringers”.
I’ve seen a couple of Cronenberg films, and they’re always whacked out and wonderful. So I’m curious and enthusiastic to check out “Dead Ringers”. Plus, Blain speaks extremely highly of it, so let’s check it out!
Click through to see what we had to say!

My questions in bold, Blain’s answers below!

1) Do you remember when you first saw the movie?
I don’t remember specifically but I was on a serious Cronenberg binge quite a few years back, buying every film of his I could find. But the one that was the most elusive and unforgettable to me was Dead Ringers. Needless to say, I was never the same again.
2) Why do you think that it’s recommendable? What do you like about it?
It’s a haunting examination of duality, co-dependence, and personal identity that makes us question the true meaning of what makes us human, up to how the people and things around us shape who we are and influence the decisions we make (I’m really only scratching the surface with this). I think it’s Cronenberg’s most mature work with his classic themes of body horror and technology in service of delving into complex Freudian psychological issues that has a cold, deliberate style that sets it apart. It’s definitely not for the squeamish but its more subdued than most of Cronenberg’s work like The Fly and Naked Lunch for example.
3) Is the movie underappreciated, do you think? Or does pop culture have it fairly rated?
I think it’s mostly unappreciated by the general audiences for its polarizing style and dicey material but also due to that not a lot of them have seen it lol. Critically, it’s pretty much regarded as a masterpiece and one of Cronenberg’s best in most circles, especially Canada. It’s in the New Cult Canon section over at AV Club as well.
4) Is there any particular reason you thought I should watch it, or were you just surprised I hadn’t seen it?
I have a very extreme passion for this film and I think it would benefit any film lover to experience its complexities. What better person than you, Fogs? 😉
5) Have you written about the movie yourself? (Insert plug here! LOL )
I have not, but I try to get every single person I know to watch and talk about it with friends. I’ve been doing pretty well so far I think.

Thanks Blain! My review is below!


Right from the outset, “Dead Ringers” carries a creepy feel to it. The opening title sequence is sketches of frightening, horrific looking medical instruments on blood-red backgrounds. You can tell that this will be an unsettling film.

The movie focuses on a pair of brothers; identical twins (both played by Jeremy Irons) who are medical students when the film begins. Upon graduation, they begin a gynaecology practice and rise to prominence and national recognition at the top of their field.

Things begin to unravel, however, when an actress (Geneviève Bujold) comes in for an examination. She’s seeking an explanation as to why she’s unable to conceive, and their exam reveals that she has a trifurcated cervix; a rare anomaly that borders on being a mutation. This fascinates Elliot (the more confident of the two twins), and he seduces her.

It’s revealed shortly thereafter that the brothers have been playing games with women for years. Elliot seduces them, being the more dashing and self-assured of the two, and then Beverly sees them next, posing as his brother. In fact, they take each other’s places frequently, including during medical matters. It brings into question just how connected they are. Are they psychically linked? Is there any physiological sensation they share? Whatever the answer is, it’s apparent that there’s something unnatural between them.

When Claire (the actress they’re sharing) gets wise to whats going on, she dumps them. This is fine by the devil-may-care Elliot, but causes the weaker Beverly much grief. He was developing genuine feelings for her. So, against his brother’s wishes, he goes back to her, seeking forgiveness, and the two begin their affair anew. This not only causes a rift between the two brothers, it opens the door for Beverly to begin experimenting with drugs with her… to potentially disastrous results.

The course is set for the successful, fêted world that the two twins have built to be torn apart.

As with all Cronenberg films I’ve seen, the world of “Dead Ringers” is slightly askew. Just enough to be discomforting. The brothers are disturbingly close from the outset, and their chosen profession entails putting female patients in positions of extreme vulnerability. The descent into drug abuse, coupled with their ongoing medical practice gives rise to scenes of serious psychological horror.

There’s an enormous amount of food for thought here. Themes of identity, self-worth, duality, co-dependence… the brothers are abnormally tied up in each other. In spite of the fact that their personalities differ vastly from each other, the fact that their appearances are identical robs them of individuality. At the same time, the fact that they have one look, but act completely different evokes themes of duality… almost a Jekyll and Hyde story. Their overly sympathetic feelings for each other draw into question whether or not the two share sensations, and when Beverly cuts the cord (so to speak) by abandoning Elliot for Claire, he immediately falls apart and begins to seek a surrogate to be dependent on.

Between the slide into drug addiction, the psychological thriller elements between the two brothers and Claire, and the occasional horror sequences as the unstable men are allowed to examine patients, “Dead Ringers” winds up a dark, unsettling, slightly off kilter film that will stay with you after you’ve watched it. It’s certainly not for the faint of heart, but those willing to brave it will find it to be an excellent film. Well acted, and superbly directed. Chilling.

Very nice recommendation, Blain.


Daniel Fogarty

23 thoughts on “Readers Recommendations: “Dead Ringers”

  1. Very nicely stated and reviewed, Fogs! Glad you found this one a worthwhile watch. One thing I find oddly beautiful that I gleaned from this film is that no matter what sets us aparts as people, we are all united in death. Great stuff! 🙂

    • LOL. Yeahhhh I dont want to go into spoilers or anything, but that IS an apt way of looking at things 😀 And it was odd and beautiful, both at the same time!

      This one was creepy and cool at the same time. Kind of frightening at parts, thought provoking at others… I was glad to have added it to my list of “have seens”! 😀

  2. Great choice, Blain!

    Excellent write up, Fogs!

    An intriguing vehicle to show front Mr. Irons’ many talents. Very few do creepy better than he does. Along with weird looking, Davis Lynch like cutlery and surgical tools.

    • Those things were freaking scary, weren’t they? That scene where he broke ’em out during a procedure was horrifying. 😯

      Irons was great here. His two performances were so distinct that you could tell which on was supposed to be which just by the way he was acting! Thats no small feat.

      It was a great choice, I’m glad Blain brought it to my attention. Happy to have caught this one!

  3. Saw this in 1988, it was disturbing and effective. I remember thinking Irons was a shoo in for an Academy Award nomination. I think his win two years later was residual effect from this time period.

    • It was that movie about the affair that he won for, right? Cant recall the name right now…

      This movie would have been nomination worthy, I could see that. Definitely. He did a great job!

      • The line from Scar in The Lion King, when Simba says to him “You’re weird Uncle Scar” and Scar replies “You have no idea” is a direct tribute to the same line from Reversal of Fortune. he even says it the same way.

  4. Awesome! This one does stick with you–forever! 😉 I still see frozen images when I think about it…chilling. I think Jeremy Irons was robbed of the Oscar for this–fantastic performances (plural).

    I was well into Cronenberg by then–Scanners (1980) started my fascination with this brilliant director–and I did not think anything would be more disturbing than The Fly–I was wrong! 😀

    Glad you appreciated it!

    • I am too, Nedi. 😀

      I know, right? I mean all of his movies are kind of gross and weird and unsettling, but this one may very well take the cake. Not 100% sure… I think the fly (because of its… close to “gore” special effects) might still win out.

      Not to say this isnt chilling though. I dont know if I’ll ever be able to look at a tray of medical instruments the same way again! LOL 😯

  5. This is not an easy movie to get into. I did not like either character that Irons played so it was difficult for me to want to stay with these characters. It’s a different type of horror film then I was used to and I will give it kudos for its originality

    • These guys were definitely not elligible for any “Likeable Character of the Year” awards, that’s for sure. But I got wrapped up in the story and what was going to happen to them nonetheless.

      Youre right, this is definitely along the lines of a psychological horror flick – very unsettling 😯

      I enjoyed it quite a bit, but its certainly not for everybody!

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