24 October 2014

The Two Faces of Evil (1980)
50 min.
Airdate: November 29, 1980
Directed by Alan Gibson.
With Anna Calder-Marshall, Gary Raymond, Paul Hawkins, Brenda Cowling, Pauline Delaney, and Philip Latham.
Jose Cruz
You may be seeing doubles after this bendy doppelganger tale, but there’s no doubt that this one has the right stuff.

A family is taking an idyllic car ride when a storm breaks out, perhaps warning of impending danger. Sure enough, they very nearly run down a sinister-looking man in a yellow raincoat when he steps out into the road. Husband Martin (Raymond) is willing to give the poor soul a lift, while his wife Janet (Calder-Marshall) remains wary of the drippy hitcher.

And with good reason. The stranger ends up attacking Martin, leading the car to crash. Janet awakens in a hospital, Martin laid up and temporarily mute due to glass entering his throat. Janet learns from a police officer that the hitchhiker died in the scuffle following the accident… but that’s not the worst of it. The sharp-nailed fiend is also a dead ringer for Martin!

But Janet tries to put this at the back of her mind as she and son David (Hawkins) go through the process of acclimating an injured Martin back to normal life. Still voiceless from his injuries, Martin does his best to stay strong. But sometimes he loses his temper. And he seems to be stalking Janet’s every step. And his fingernails are getting awfully long…

The notion of having an identical twin, and one whose disposition is not-so-nice, has proved a rich vein for horror and suspense films, evidenced in everything from Invasion of the Body Snatchers to the Mirror Image episode from The Twilight Zone. The Two Faces of Evil mines this vein to powerful effect, in addition to putting its own spin on it by incorporating an unsettling Moebius strip element that is just barely hinted at.

As cunningly as the vignette handles its shocking revelations (including a marrow-chilling realization made by Janet towards the end), its power at examining the human aspect of our heroine’s plight is done with extreme delicacy.

Take note especially of the moment where Martin, frustrated by his debilitating injuries, throws a kettle in mounting anger because he cannot properly put it together. Janet reacts with horror, and this is where we see the real reason why the episode is so frightening: she is seeing her husband change into someone else. Gone is the smiling, loving patriarch; here comes the monster.

Calder-Marshall is perfect as the beleaguered wife and mother, showing both the crippling fear of her incomprehensible situation as well as the brave resourcefulness it takes to face the boogeyman. Things may not end nicely for her, but she puts up one hell of a fight along the way.

Really an exemplary production.

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