DEAD RINGERS (mini-series)

"...if you have a strong stomach, it's sure to make you think as it horrifies and repulses you."

Dead Ringers Offers Feminist Twist on Body Horror

(101223) Director Dave Cronenberg has been in the news a great deal in the last few years. His last movie, Crimes of the Future (2022), won the Film Comment’s poll for best film of the year in 2022 and it was on many best films of the year lists. In addition, there was a big festival of his films recently at the Gene Siskel Center that was well received. What Cronenberg was most well known for is the invention of body horror which often shows graphic depictions of symbolic violations of the human body. In addition, his son, Brandon Cronenberg whose work is in some ways an extension of David’s, created the best horror related film of this year, Infinity Pool. David Cronenberg has left an exceptionally large cinematic footprint. This year the show Dead Ringers has been released on Amazon Prime which was based on The David Cronenberg film with the same name as well as the Twins novel by Bari Wood.

These works were all inspired by a real case in which two twin gynecologists, Stewart and Cryril Marcus (in real life they were male) were found dead in New York (it was assumed to be suicide) which led to a newspaper article in New York magazine all the other related media projects.

Dead Ringers is a well-acted and compelling speculative fiction (it’s not quite pure horror). Some Cronenberg fans have attacked this film as being unfaithful to the 1988 film, but this Amazon Prime show is a whole different animal and it has its own merits.

The show was created by Alice Birch, a playwright whose credits include the show, Normal People (2020). and Succession (2023). She found inspiration in Cronenberg’s film but delves into a slightly different region of body horror, which intentionally spotlights grotesque or psychological disturbing violations of the human body (like the mock childbirth scene in Alien in which the Xenomorph bursts through a chest). Her version focuses more on female-based body horror often involving pregnancy.

There is a long history of fiction and art works exploiting the ideas of twins from Poe’s story, William Wilson (which was adapted in the Spirits of the Dead film) to the more recent Spanish film, Tin and Tina (see the recent review). Dead Ringers plays on the concept and gives it a weird twist not found in the other media adaptations, making it more centered on the female body. It explores the notion of sisters who once shared a womb who are now experimenting on other wombs sometimes with terrible results. The miniseries updates and modernizes the story and the gender switch of the twins allows the film to explore feminist themes in the guise of horror and helping to redefine the fright film giving it a feminist spin. This follows the tradition of other recent movies like Titane, High Tension and Freaky.

The greatest asset the show has is lead actor, Rachel Weisz who also served as a co-producer. Rachel is an outstanding and underrated British screen star who is known for alternating between big budget blockbusters and small, Indy films. Mainstream film viewers probably know her most for her work in The Mummy (1999). The Mummy Returns (2001), and Constantine (2005), which were all mediocre. But her best work was done in artier smaller films like The Fountain (2006), The Lobster (2015), and
The Favourite (2018).

Rachel Weisz competently steps into the shoes of Jeremy Irons taking in the gender flipped lead roles. Weisz proves her talent by convincingly playing two very contrary twins. Eliot is blunt, rebellious, and emotionally volatile while her sister, Beverly, is sensible, even tempered, and bound by duty. Also, both are doctors but Eliot prefers tinkering in a lab to improve fertility while Beverly likes to personally deliver babies. Occasionally for amusement the two women trade identities and take on each other’s patients and even swap dates. They are almost like one person in two bodies and one point Beverly even says, “We don’t need anyone else; we never have.”

The two sisters work at a hospital but their greatest desire is to open their own “birthing center” to help women who have trouble reproducing. They always tell their clients that pregnancy is not a disease so they are not patients but guests. It is fascinating to see that although they are played by the same actress Weisz is able to play two immediately distinguishable identical characters. Usually, the free spirited, dope loving Eliot has messy hair plus uses more vulgar language while the more reserved Beverly’s hair is pulled back unless they want to trick someone.

Both twins live together and they have quite different lives. Beverly is seeing a female actor named Genevieve (played by Saint Maude’s Britne Oldford). Rebecca Parker who is a friend of Eliot, offers them complete funding for their center, but the catch is that they have to ignore the shady ways she gets her money (people are constantly protesting her company’s actions.) So, they have to decide whether to compromise their ethics to achieve what they see as a noble dream.

As the series goes on, we get deeper and deeper into science fiction-like concepts and the episodes explore many of the same themes as Black Mirror (review coming soon) and both explore the sometimes-freighting implications of new scientific breakthroughs might have on everyday life. The sisters’ institute has birth rooms where women have babies with the artificial wombs and the women start to delay menopause using preserved implanted uterine tissue.

The film has as many feminist overtones as Barbie. Despite the twins’ sometimes monstrous behavior and acts they have good motivations. They want to manage an alternative to what they believe is a patriarchal medical system which in which in their view women are treated like second class citizens and frequently kept in the margins.

Dead Ringers is not for extremely sensitive or squeamish viewers. There are some scenes that audience members may have to force themselves to watch as if they are taking good medicine. The film mini-series includes graphic language, partial nudity, illicit drug use, shocking or clinical cold sex scenes, a horrific caesarian operation and other in-depth gynecological sequences. But if you have a strong stomach the show is sure to make you think as it horrifies and repulses you. It is also guaranteed to make your skin crawl and make you ponder how women are treated by the medical system.

Episodes Directed by:    Sean Durkin, Karena Evans, Karyn Kusama, and
 Lauren Wolkstein
Episodes Written by:    Gareth Dunnet Alcover, based on the movie Dead
 Ringers by David Cronenberg which was adapted
 from the novel Twins by Bari Wood and Jack
Starring:    Rachel Weisz, Britne Oldford, Poppy Liu
Released:    04/21/23
Length:    The Mini-Series is made up of 6 episodes, 54-64
 minutes each
Rating:    Rated TV-MA for graphic sexual positions and
Available On:    At press time the film was streaming on Amazon
 Prime Video

In a rare Halloween season treat, Lamberto’s Bava’s giallo classic Demons (called Demoni in Italy) which was produced by horror master, Dario Argento will be screened at the Copernicus Theatre from 7:30 to 10:30 this Sunday, October 15.

As if that isn’t enough, the film will feature a live performance by Claudio Simonetti and his band Goblin. Simonetti has written and recorded some of the most influential scores and soundtracks in horror, including Suspiria, Dawn of the Dead, Deep Red / Profondo Rosso, Tenebre, and many others with his seminal work still informing the genre to this day.

Following the finale of the film, the collective will return after a brief intermission to deliver an additional performance of quintessential Goblin material and "best of" songs and scores set to their cinematic counterparts." Doors open at 6 pm.

For more info and to obtain tickets go to:


For more writings by Vittorio Carli go to and His latest book "Tape Worm Salad with Olive Oil for Extra Flavor" is also available.

Come to the next session of the Monthly Poetry Show on the first Saturday of every month at Tangible Books in Bridgeport from 7-9 at 3324 South Halsted hosted by Vittorio Carli.

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