That’s the question in a psychological thriller called The Scribbler, which is showing in theaters and on iTunes. It starts as a psychological thriller, but unwisely shifts into a possible origin story that doesn’t quite work.
The cast includes two actresses from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but it’s Katie Cassidy from Arrow & Supernatural that makes an impression as Suki, a girl plagued by voices in her head. When we first meet her, she’s interviewed by a police detective (Michael Imperioni) and a psychologist (Eliza Dushku) about several residents at a halfway house who have jumped—or were pushed—to their deaths. The detective suspects Suki killed them all, but as Suki tells her story, it may not be the case.
She enters Juniper Towers (sometimes called “Jumper Towers”), and encounters Emily, a girl who prefers to stay nude, and Cleo (Gina Gershon), a sex addict with a snake. She also meets Hogan (Garrett Dillahunt), a guy who likes gadgets and sex with some of the other residents. The interior of the building is bathed in green, and is about as twisted as the psyches of its residents.
Suki is also part of an experimental cure for her multiple personalities called “Siamese Burn” therapy. Electrical shocks burn off the extra personalities, but a dangerous personality known as “The Scribbler” is fighting to stay in her. This personality writes in backward letters, and writes cryptic messages like “unzip you hear”. She’s under the care of Dr. Sinclair (Billy Campbell), who had tried the process with someone else, but it didn’t work.
As Suki continues her treatments with a portable version of the machine, she starts to lose time, while other residents fall to their deaths. The machine itself also seems to be altered to do something else to Suki. She even hears other strange things, like a talking dog. She also meets Alice (Michelle Trachtenberg), who looks really menacing in dark hair and sunglasses, asking Suki if she’s seen her dog…named Hogan. There’s also a suggestion that Suki’s Scribbler persona may not be human
Dan Schaffer’s story, based on his graphic novel, seems to be a straight-forward look at a girl doomed to lose herself to her inner demon, but an unexpected twist sets up a very good battle over her soul. However, it may remind some people of Sucker Punch, which also tried to turn a mental patient into an action heroine.
Cassidy is good as a troubled girl who is plagued by her inner demons. Dillahunt doesn’t contribute much as Hogan, aside from when he tries the machine for himself. Dushku and Imperioli spend most of their time arguing over whether Suki is crazy or guilty. It would have been great if they were more involved in the story. Trachtenberg, though, is very creepy as Alice.
The Scribbler tries to show ideas like “evil” and insanity” may not be cut and dried, and technology may not be a cure, either. It doesn’t quite work as an origin story, though. The movie is rated “R” for sexual content, nudity, violence and language. It’s in a few theaters, but also available on iTunes.