Despite acknowledging that The Scribbler boasts a title fitting of only the wussiest superhero imaginable, this indie graphic novel adaptation somewhat holds its own against bigger Marvel/DC bullies who command the comic book genre. It’s not easy for a little fish to swim with the sharks, as even larger-budget films like The Spirit couldn’t hack it, but Dan Schaffer’s multiple story layers are able to provide enough groundwork for director John Suits to build a heavily saturated, psychotically seedy world around. There are certainly heroes and villains, but not in the way comic book movies have taught us to recognize, which is somewhat refreshing with so many spandex-clad hard-bodies running about and being all disgustingly charming – give me a cynical, conflicted hero any day of the week.
Katie Cassidy plays Suki, a woman with multiple personalities who currently is undergoing a continuing procedure called “The Siamese Burn” in hopes that the voices will be eliminated over time. Checking into an institution of sorts, she meets a colorful cast of characters who all have their own conditions (Sasha Grey, Garret Dillahunt, and Gina Gershon to name a few), but when a string of suicides draws criminal attention to the facility, some people start to suspect foul play. To make matters worse, as Suki reduces the number of personalities stuck inside her, the fear of deleting her actual persona starts to take over, questioning if a “cure” will work in the end. As Suki fights to clear her name, others strive to doom it, and her only hope may be a silent personality dubbed The Scribbler, a side of Suki that only appears in the most chaotic of times.
The Scribbler attempts to color outside the lines, searching for grander themes about how “normal” society members are the ones wearing makes, putting on ridiculous costumes while planting themselves in front of computer screens all day. Suki’s struggles with suppressing her numerous personalities turn into an eventual question of “Who is the real Suki?” – could The Scribbler actually be Suki, while her controlled presence is just a manifestation built for assimilation into modern culture? Sadly, these existentialist themes about achieving inner enlightenment, connecting with our true selves, are overshadowed and weakened by overly-preachy dialogue akin to “DAMN THE MAN” jargon from early 70s exploitation films. The film bounces about, trying to pinpoint the meaning of life, but Suits’ work favors flashy, stylized comic material – not discovering Buddha’s essence.
With that said, there’s a creeping horror influence throughout The Scribbler that aids in so many ways, from monstrous forms to brutal visuals that lend themselves towards an overarching sense of danger, like One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest on hallucinogenic drugs. Certain actors are unrecognizable in such a gruesome light, such as Michelle Trachtenberg, which does wonders in creating vibrant characters that build a fantasy world inside Suki’s own head. Suits shrouds most scenes in darkness and tinted hues cut with bright, shining lights to create a contrast whenever story breakthroughs are imminent, utilizing slow motion like so many similar genre movies that have come and gone (300), finding a style reminiscent of Zack Snyder himself. This, to me, is a compliment, as Snyder has found an artistic delivery not easily replicated, but Suits himself finds the same hyper-visual success with a film like The Scribbler.
Katie Cassidy is a superhero in her own right, tackling a character who constantly switches her composition as different voices take over. One might be super sweet while another is a sex-obsessed deviant, and it’s Cassidy who must show the many faces of Suki, but each personality becomes a character in itself thanks to Cassidy’s dynamic command. Suits and Schaffer ask the world of their star, from nudity to action sequences, and Cassidy delivers like the wondrous woman she is. Each hurdle is met with intensity and a heightened sense of comic book vitality, being able to express a funnier, more eccentric pulpiness – always with something witty, cynical and darkly comedic to assert. Cassidy presents an unabashedly entertaining main character to follow along with, receiving ample amounts of help from even more crazy comic stereotypes who appear to have jumped from the page (Dillahunt, Trachtenberg, and Michael Imperioli stand out).
Then again, there is a forced cheekiness to the whole production, almost like a cultish vibe is being forced upon The Scribbler. Certain comic book adaptations are blessed with a too-cool-for-school atmosphere that plays along with characters who exist far beyond reality, while others struggle to balance panache, sleekness and colorful stories about fantastical themes. The Scribbler in no way fails to build a world full of intrigue, shady dealings, unconventional superpowers and a scribblin’ madwoman, but certain moments struggle to keep viewers caught in Suits’ web.
The Scribbler plays like a toned-down version of Lucy, housing the same ideas about inner-enlightenment while also finding the time for some sexy, cartoonish fun, but Suits’ story doesn’t manage to achieve levels of comic nirvana that demand a cult-classic status. Katie Cassidy takes us on a cerebral journey that dives deep into a mind packed with conflicting personalities, and she does so like a devilish psychiatric experiment, but I rather believe Suki presents a far more interesting character than The Scribbler herself. This is a good thing, because The Scribbler only appears for an erratic finale – I’m just hoping that Suki’s adventures end favorably and aren’t dragged out for a more hero-centric sequel.
While The Scribbler isn't exactly in contention with the best that the comic book genre has to offer, Katie Cassidy utilizes the numerous voices in her head to create a unique hero for a bit of stylized freshness.