October is defined in Webster’s Dictionary as “31 days of horror.” Don’t bother looking it up, it’s true. Most people take that to mean highlighting one horror movie a day, but here at FSR, we’ve taken that up a spooky notch or nine by celebrating each day with a top ten list. This article about the best doppelgänger horror movies is part of our ongoing series 31 Days of Horror Lists.
Mister Rogers taught us that we’re special. There is only one you. That is our gift to this lovely planet. Only we can do what we can do. You’re welcome. As these ten films below will reveal, though, Mister Rogers was a liar. There are others who want what we have. There are others who can do us better than we can. These doppelgängers will wait in the shadows no more. They’re ready to step out of the mirror and wear our skins.
Keep reading to diabolically double your pleasure with the Boo Crew — a.k.a. Chris Coffel, Valerie Ettenhofer, Kieran Fisher, Anna Swanson, Rob Hunter, Meg Shields, Jacob Trussell, and yours truly (at least I think I’m yours truly) — as we put these wretched wannabes under the microscope and explore the best doppelgänger horror movies.
10. Possession (1981)
The best movie that could have also been called Marriage Story, Possession is an operatic and unshakeable masterwork that is at once deeply resonant and profoundly bizarre. The film stars Sam Neill as a spy in a relationship-on-the-rocks marriage, who begins to suspect that all is not as it seems with his wife, Anna (the inimitable Isabelle Adjani). He soon crosses paths with his son’s teacher, Helen (Adjani, again — doppelgänger horror!) and this is only the start of the mystery. Unfolding in an audacious and originally nightmarish fashion, and featuring one of the greatest sequences set to celluloid, the legendary subway scene, Possession is the cinematic equivalent of capturing lightning in a bottle. While the story might be about doubles, the film itself is an accomplishment that could never be duplicated. (Meg Shields)
9. Coherence (2013)
Comets are bad news. Whenever they pass our precious little rock, a world of weirdness falls upon us. Certainly, that’s what movies have taught me. In Coherence, the cosmic close-contact tears a riff into space and time. Eight pals are simply trying to enjoy a night in when the power cuts out, and hijinks ensue within their little party domicile. Who is the jokester? They are. Multiple realities crash into each other, and it becomes a game of survival of the fittest. Which world wants it more? Coherence is a trippy step into the Twilight Zone, where comedy and dread dip into each other. As the runtime ticks toward its finish, the anxiety of the partygoers, as well as the audience, ratchets north. When a mirror shatters, you discover that the characters you’re rooting for might not actually be the characters you’re rooting for. (Brad Gullickson)
8. Cam (2018)
One of the freshest takes on the dangerous doubles subgenres comes from camgirl-turned-writer-and-producer Isa Mazzei. In Cam, a camgirl named Alice (Orange is the New Black’s Madeline Brewer) navigates the high-wire act of keeping her online shows separate from her everyday life, until one day another version of her pops up online. The other Alice is stealing our protagonist’s fans, reputation, and income, not to mention her face. Is this identity theft? A glitch? A curse? Doppelgänger horror? Mazzei shines a nuanced light on the online sex work industry while also delivering a tense and shocking story about what happens when one’s double life manifests in human form. (Valerie Ettenhofer)
7. Lost Highway (1997)
One does not step into a David Lynch film with ease. From the moment you press play, you’re on guard. The world, as first presented, is not the world it appears to be. Lost Highway does everything Mullholland Drive does, but sooner, quicker, and more viciously (sorry, Anna – see below). Who are you? What’s your purpose? What’s your reality? The questions burn in our hero Bill Pullman’s brain the moment he starts to receive mysterious VHS tapes and the accusations of murder land at his feet. The film is straight neo-noir dread until it’s not. Lost Highway presents a double that is at once fantastical and all-too-real emotionally. As always, Lynch revels in the horrific and the baffling to capture emotional authenticity. When Pullman’s character meets the man in the mirror, you can bet your ass that you’ll recognize him. (Brad Gullickson)
6. Body Double (1984)
Brian De Palma, as he is known to do, channels his inner Hitchcock with Body Double, the story of a struggling actor that gets caught in a world of voyeurism and violence. While house-sitting for a new friend, Jake Scully (Craig Wasson) becomes obsessed with a woman that does a striptease at the same time every night directly in front of her bedroom window. He eventually witnesses her murder and then soon discovers that the woman he developed an obsession over may not have been the woman he saw dancing every night. De Palma developed the idea while interviewing body doubles for Angie Dickinson in Dressed to Kill. From there, he borrowed elements from Rear Window and Vertigo and delivered a masterpiece of an erotic thriller as only he can. (Chris Coffel)