Alter Ego (2021) Review
A writer stalked by their own creation was a popular theme in films like Oliver Stone’s Seizure (aka Queen of Evil), even before Stephen King’s bestseller The Dark Half. And it will probably be around long after as well. The most recent example, Alter Ego from writer/director Ezio Massa (2/11: Day of the Dead, 5 A.M.) may not help its chances though.
Detective DiBiasse (Eric Roberts, Skin Traffik, Megaboa) arrives on the scene of what is to be his last case along with the rookie he’s been training (Rodrigo Guirao Díaz, Until You Untie Me). And the site is a familiar one, the home of best-selling author Alan Schaeffer (Dylan Walsh, Congo, The Stepfather). Schaeffer is adamant that his life is in danger. In fact, he’s sure he’ll die before the night is over if he’s left alone.
The security guard (Steve Stanulis, Hinsdale House, Clinton Road) who arrives at his house however is less than convinced by his story that Ivan Tanner, a serial killer he created, is out to get him before he can finish the novel that kills him off.
Watching Alter Ego, I quickly got the feeling that it was made up of two different films spliced together. Or possibly a short film that had footage of Eric Roberts added to it and sold as a feature. Despite the film’s plot, nobody from Roberts’ scenes interacts with anyone from Walsh’s timeline. And at only about an hour’s worth of story, the rest of the film’s seventy-eight-minute runtime is the credits, it feels short and lacking substance for a feature.
In one of Alter Ego’s timelines, we see Schaeffer as he waits for his rendezvous with destiny. Mostly it means listening to him and the guard talk. We have an idea of how it all turns out because we know what DiBiasse is there to investigate. And we see him wandering around questioning the film’s second cast of characters such as Schaeffer’s girlfriend Paula (Deborah Twiss, A Gun for Jennifer, A Wrestling Christmas Miracle) and his agent (Harry Chambarry, The Sun Is Also a Star, Let Me Down Hard).
If the two were better integrated, Alter Ego could have worked, seeing things happen in contrast to how the investigators interpret the evidence and wondering if they’ll come to the right conclusion. But I never felt any real connection between the two due to the lack of shared characters.
It also doesn’t help that Alter Ego’s main story turns out to revolve around some very dubious logic and plot developments. And the twists are obvious almost from the start. There’s no suspense, and the only surprise is how bad Stanulis’ acting is, doubly surprising as he won a “Tabloid Witch Award” for this performance. He comes off as a caricature rather than a character, a fatal flaw in a film like this.
For the very few scenes he’s in, maybe five minutes total screen time, Roberts does a good enough job. And when I say good enough, I mean good enough to win September’s monthly Best Actor Award from the European Cinematography Awards (ECA). I wonder if that’s more or less prestigious than Stanulis’ “Tabloid Witch Award”.
What does it say about the state of festivals and awards these days when you can get a “Best Actor” trophy for maybe a five-minute performance? Or when a film like this can win fifteen overall? Granted they’re from festivals I’ve never heard of and are probably pay to win awards, but it’s still a ridiculous situation and a large part of the reason more people have come to disregard awards except for the major ones, Oscars, Emmys, etc.
Alter Ego will be available On Demand from Indican Pictures on February 8th. You can check their website for updates and details.