Saturday, September 3, 2016

In short: The Mind’s Eye (2015)

It’s 1990, and Scanners-style psychokinetic powers are a thing in the population. Rambling psychokinetic Zack (Graham Skipper) is lured into the private, secret, and deeply dubious psi research program of Dr. Slovak (John Speredakos, increasingly – and rather wonderfully - chewing the scenery) with the promise of seeing his old flame Rachel (Lauren Ashley Carter) – also a psychokinetic and in the research program – again. Turns out Slovak is a bit of a liar, for while Rachel is indeed in the program – and is now motivated with an opportunity for seeing Zack again as he is the other way around – Slovak clearly (and for only vague reasons) does not plan on reuniting the lovers ever again.

The research program isn’t quite as interested in helping its subjects control or suppress their powers as promised either. In fact, while Slovak has developed an intermittently working drug to suppress psychic powers for a time, his research goal is to give himself psychokinetic powers. This he does by extracting some of his victims’ spinal fluid, extracting the magical psi juice, and injecting that into his own neck. Which, as it turns out, has rather severe side effects.

So things will get bloody once Zack realizes he has developed a tolerance against the psi-suppressants he is shot up with, and he and Rachel go on the run.

Obviously, Joe Begos’s The Mind’s Eye is – aesthetically and in its content – deeply inspired by early 80s psi thrillers and horror movies, and plays out like the entertaining dumb fun brother of Cronenberg’s Scanners, a role all of that film’s actual sequels aspired to but never managed to reach. The closeness to the Cronenberg film (and comparable movies) is very much one of general aesthetics, exploding heads, people making ultra-constipated faces during psychic battles (best in show in that regard is the inevitable – yet lovely - Larry Fessenden who should be in even more movies to make psychic battle faces), and the basic plot. What The Mind’s Eye lacks in comparison is any depth whatsoever. This is strictly what you see is what you get surface spectacle cinema.

However, I don’t think that’s a bad thing in this case, for Begos’s movie never pretends to be anything else, nor does it try to be anything more than a movie about people with psychic powers bloodily battling one another. Begos is rather good at what he’s doing here, too, achieving a unified and highly effective aesthetic on a very low budget, and making up for what he lacks in the opportunity to shoot large action set pieces with a mostly fantastic eye for more intimate as well as doubly bloody action, the sort of thing that should embarrass quite a few people shooting direct-to-DVD action movies that never manage to look as good nor feel as exciting.

In its own way, The Mind’s Eye is pretty much a perfect film, achieving what it sets out to do flawlessly, while looking good and splattering a lot of bodily fluids across the screen (some of it pleasantly chocolate-coloured).

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