Home Video Hell
Home Video Hell is where filmic outcasts—straight-to-video, straight-to-VOD, or barely released—spend eternity.
The condemned: Double Walker (2021)
The plot: One would think being a ghost, doomed to wander the earth for eternity without explanation or purpose, would become a hell of a lot easier if you were able to still touch things, consume alcohol, make friends—oh, and exact bloody revenge on the bad men of this world. Not so! Apparently, it still sucks a whole lot, especially if you were cruelly and unfairly killed at a young age, and had to live with that knowledge ad infinitum. Which, fair enough—walk a mile in those ethereal shoes, and so on.
Double Walker jumps back and forth in time quite a bit, but let’s try to capture the basic gist of the story. It begins with a woman scrubbing blood out of the floor of her home, then cutting quickly to her husband delivering a eulogy for their young daughter, so right away you know this is going to be a real wrist-slitter of a good time. (A child’s death is just guaranteed sadness, unless it’s Veruca Salt or one of those evil little bastards from Hostel II.) That night after the funeral reception, mom’s drinking and knocks over the Christmas tree—so now we know what a jolly time of year it is!
Next, we cut to a young woman (Sylvie Mix) discovered in the woods by a man walking his dog, and she’s wearing nothing but a long white T-shirt. Before you can say, “Huh, she doesn’t seem bothered by the cold at all; perhaps she’s a ghost?” the guy (who turns out to be a real creep) brings her back to his home and immediately tries to have sex with her—whereupon she stabs him to death in the neck with a spoon. Suddenly, she’s sitting next to the mom on the couch after the little girl’s funeral, though the mom can’t see her, and suddenly, it all starts to become a little clearer.
Soon, this ghostly young woman is delivering a monologue that explains the basic parameters of her existence (this appears in the trailer, so it’s not like we’re giving anything away). It seems that she was offered an afterlife: Either spend one more day as a human, getting to make amends and such, then be gone forever, or she could live on forever as a ghost but would never be seen by anyone—save for “believers and sinners.” (Arguably a big category, no?) She chose the latter, and now we’re seeing the results of that decision play out, punctuated by some absolutely righteous wrath visited upon a few gents who may or may not have done some wrong.
Full disclosure: This is a rare instance of Home Video Hell covering a film that has yet to come out. (Double Walker will be available in select theaters and on demand—you can pre-order here—beginning November 12.) So, if any of the above sounds intriguing to you, I would highly recommend you stop reading now, bookmark this tab, and come back to it in two weeks after you’ve seen the movie. Without spoiling anything, the movie is far from flawless, but it’s very much worth your time.
Okay! Now that the only people remaining are you weirdos who need to know the full plot of a movie before checking it out, here’s a quick rundown. While trying to use her incomplete memories of her youth to get revenge on these shitty guys (she has inexplicably aged between 15 and 20 years from the time she died until her reappearance), Ghost ends up meeting a nice theater manager and the two begin a weird courtship. (Guess he falls under the heading of “believer,” huh.) Inevitably, her bloodthirsty vendetta runs up against her desire to be with this sweet guy, and she finds herself forced to choose what path to continue down. Without giving anything away, let’s just say we get an unusual “all of the above” ending.
Over-the-top box copy: None to speak of yet, but the logline is, “A young woman’s ghost investigates the mysterious events that led to her own murder.” Yeah, that scans, except that I never got the sense she was investigating anything, so much as she was pretty aware of what happened, and royally pissed about it.
The descent: While there are plenty of hack movies that manage to churn out semi-decent trailers to help mask the overall ineptitude of the filmmaking, something about Double Walker’s conveys actual quality. It comes across like a combination of David Lowery’s A Ghost Story and Emerald Fennell’s Promising Young Woman, and honestly, that’s not far off the actual result. Except, of course, there’s no white sheet covering Ghost—she either reappears each day wholly naked or covered in only a white T-shirt, and it’s not entirely clear why the two outcomes vary. Either way, it’s a compelling hook, artfully advertised. We get so few actual good movies in this feature, it was exciting to think another might join their ranks.
The theoretically heavenly talent: Unless you’re related to them, there’s very little chance you’ve heard of any of these folks. A couple of the supporting roles are filled by people who have done small one-offs on TV shows, and director Colin West has made a bunch of short films, but no, you’re not going to catch a glimpse of someone and exclaim, “Oh, it’s so-and-so!” This is more of a “who-and-who?” affair.
The execution: Surprisingly great! This is a film that starts off somewhat weak but gets better as it goes along. It can be messy in terms of its jumping between timelines, and the themes it thinks it’s addressing aren’t half so well developed, but it maintains an oddly compelling power that overcomes those weaknesses. Plus, does it ever get old watching awful dudes get their just deserts? No, it does not.
It should be noted that the film’s dream logic makes for some pretty nice visuals. When recounting her dream, Ghost details the trip she took in the trunk of a car to meet the spirits that offered her the choice between one day and eternity, and it recalls nothing so much as an outtake from Lost Highway—which, if you’re going to borrow from someone, that’s a solid pull:
There are multiple moments like that—sequences where Ghost’s half-remembered memories push and pull against the dream logic of a surreal nightmare. Whether it’s the fleeting instances of her as a young girl, seeing the adults downstairs move and talk in ways that feel too big for her to comprehend (shades of Spike Lee’s Crooklyn), or the slow manner in which she paces nude through the house, running her fingers along the furniture in hopes of triggering her past, West crafts some potent imagery.
But it also suggests that, should he so choose, the director and co-writer (along with star Mix) could make one hell of a horror movie. While Double Walker sometimes errs by balancing its overall opacity with reductive exposition (especially when it tries to tie everything neatly together near the end), a couple of sequences highlight just how scary a movie West could’ve made, were he so inclined. In particular, this scene, where one of the creepy men goes by himself to get his car washed, is a masterclass in both framing and supernatural rug-pulling:
That’s some It Follows-level shit, and I am in for a throat-slashing penny, in for a bleeding-out pound.
That being said, one of the elements that’s most enjoyable about Double Walker is how elegantly it blends indie hangout-movie vibes with eerie, Sixth Sense-like strangeness. There’s a montage of Ghost hanging out on New Year’s Eve with her sort-of boyfriend that feels as much like a one-crazy-night teen film as it does any ghost story, even as it retains the oddball tone the film works so hard to establish. And in the following scene, where a young boy who is able to see her invites her to join his family at the dinner table, there’s a similarly smart fusion of kitchen-sink drama and uncanny mystery.
It feels strange to be recommending a film that isn’t out yet in this column; Home Video Hell is generally a place to savor the silliness that exists a mere streaming-click away. But for those interested, Double Walker is worth the wait: What at first seems like it’s going to be an eye-rolling exercise in student-film-level unpacking of the male gaze (there’s some closeups, during the opening minutes, on the eyes of the first guy she seduces as he watches her move, that are cringe-inducing) quickly reveals itself to be far more sophisticated and compelling.
However, it is in clear violation of the “no abrupt twee indie folk to hammer home an emotional beat” policy. A lesson for next time.
Likelihood it will rise from obscurity: I hope so! It may not be clear if you only read my writing in this feature, but contrary to popular belief, I much prefer good movies to bad ones.
Damnable commentary track or special features? One step at a time. This hasn’t even been released on digital yet. But if it does get a Blu-ray release, I’ll be first in line.