You have to hand it to the creative team behind the new series Dead Ringers for having the gumption to remake a piece that was birthed from the mind of one David Cronenberg. The darkly-driven filmmaker’s 1988 psychological thriller – which followed his 1986 horror success The Fly – starred Jeromy Irons in a dual role as identical twin gynecologists who were perhaps a little too dangerously loose with their patients.
But director and executive producer Sean Durkin has done just that, enhancing Cronenberg’s film – itself an adaptation of the novel “Twins” by Bari Wood and Jack Geasland – and navigating a mentality that both honours its source material, whilst deviating to hone its own personality; Durkin achieving this with the assistance of collaborative filmmakers over the course of the series’ six episodes, including Karyn Kusama (Jennifer’s Body) and Lauren Wolkstein (The Strange Ones).
The biggest ace Dead Ringers has in its deck though is Rachel Weisz, and the creative decision to gender-flip the original characterisation of leads Elliot and Beverly Mantle (originally embodied by Irons). As the brilliant, inseparable twins – the names still remaining – Weisz is an absolute force to be reckoned with (can we just give her the Emmy now?), delivering two distinct performances that often makes you forget she isn’t in fact two separate actresses. Them being gynecologists adds an extra layer of emotionality being females in such a profession, and the driving crux of their professional intentions of opening up a new chain of birthing centres allows the series to still indulge in their dangerously close relationship, with one possessing more noble inclinations for their work, and the other flirting with Frankenstein-like delusions of glory.
The series itself does have a standalone temperament to its episodes, but there is a through-line to the at-times horrific madness as we – almost voyeuristically – follow the sisters and their co-dependent, yet distinguishably separate relationship. Beverly’s more ethically-principled sister offsets Elliott’s wild-card mentality (an early scene where the two swap patient consultations speaks quite significantly to their differing professional approaches), and as much as Dead Ringers could have survived off Weisz’s deliciousness alone – she absolutely devours both personalities – the wise introduction of Jennifer Ehle as an overtly wealthy entrepreneur who’s on hand to fund the twins’ birthing centre adds an additional layer of intrigue and disgust.
The show offers no apologies in the way it addresses certain depravities (the first episode opens with a lecherous civilian expressing his interest in watching the sisters fornicate with each other, whilst the second leans into the cruel mindset of what wealth and power can do for profiteers) and an extremely graphic compilation of birthing sequences is likely to test the patience – and stomachs – of some viewers too, but given its Cronenberg inspiration it only seems fitting; and Dead Ringers is never showcasing such material for the sake of shock or titillation – ultimately highlighting the unfortunate world we live in.
Savage, darkly funny, and intentionally uncomfortable, Dead Ringers may test you to look away, but Weisz (and Weisz) command your attention so that it will prove too difficult to do so.
FOUR STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
Dead Ringers is streaming on Prime Video from April 21st, 2023.