When Holly Gooding (Drew Barrymore) was living in New York City, a strange tragedy occured; one day she was walking through the streets when she noticed someone dressed identically to her, dark glasses, headscarf, long coat, walking by her in the opposite direction. Later she heard that her mother (Jaid Barrymore) had been attacked in her apartment, stabbed repeatedly with a knife until she was dead, and according to the neighbours someone who looked suspiciously like Holly was the culprit. But she had a solid alibi, and now she is in Los Angeles to see her infirm brother...
You could observe any movie which starts with the leading actress pretending to murder her own mother would suggest some kind of issues within that family, but do not let that detain you too long, as for the most part Doppelganger offered low rent thrills and a storyline which went out of its way to baffle in place of any substance. Or sense, for that matter, with Drew playing possibly a dual role as the characters of innocent Holly who is trying to work out what is really going on with her family, and her mysterious double who is set on bumping off those who get in her way, essentially the good girl and bad girl in conflict.
It's the sort of thing you might have seen before in many an evil twin thriller, but here given a horror movie spin which failed to do justice to the more interesting aspects of the production. This enjoyed surprisingly good reviews when it was first released, with many complimenting Barrymore on her maturity into a fine actress, but seeing it now you wonder why as she had so little to work with, pretty much playing an empty enigma, that any starlet could have essayed the role with much the same results no matter what their levels of talent. Thus it is now regarded as a trifling footnote in her career, where she was still finding her feet.
Israeli director Avi Nesher was the man behind this, best known to trash fans for his downright bizarre version of She from about ten years before, but with a long list of credits in a variety of genres, if none of them exactly household names. Here you could consider that perhaps the horror genre was not for him, as what he came up with was definitely bizarre, but less mindbending than maladroit in its clumsy aims to keep the audience on their toes. When Holly reaches L.A. she moves in with a roommate, aspiring screenwriter Patrick Highsmith (George Newbern) - is this some kind of pun on Patricia Highsmith?! - who cannot believe his luck that such an attractive woman is now sharing his living space.
Alas, she appears to be suffering some kind of, yes, split personality and acts hot and cold towards him, one moment throwing herself at his grateful self, the next behaving with hostility. Seeing as how every so often she will have a funny turn - seeing wobbly forest imagery, taking a shower that becomes blood instead of water, kicking Danny Trejo in the bollocks, that sort of thing - Patrick would be advised to let Holly get on with whatever issues she has, but he cannot let her lie and soon is acting the detective, much to the irritation of his ex-girlfriend and current writing partner Elizabeth (Leslie Hope, getting through her scenes by performing them very forcefully). You may be contemplating where this is heading, but the clue is in the opening titles which credit the special effects wizards - that's right, it's a rubbery effects-filled finale, which comes out of nowhere if you thought you were watching your average nineties psychothriller, even if it was a shade more pixilated than its contemporaries. If you haven't given up on Doppelganger before that, you will likely throw up your hands in defeat eventually. Music by Jan A.P. Kaczmarek.