US | 2015 | Directed by Joe Begos
Logline: A man and woman, both with powerful psychokinetic abilities, are abducted and held prisoner by a deranged doctor intent on harnessing and harvesting their powers for his own evil agenda.
Baby-faced Begos has delivered his second feature, continuing on with his body-horror fascination and tribute to the early 80s glory days of practical effects. His first feature, Almost Human, was more of a nod to John Carpenter, whilst this one is definitely a big shout out to the baron of body horror, David Cronenberg in particular Scanners. Both movies rely heavily on practical special effects, prosthetics, squibs, and lots of pumped blood. Begos would’ve barely been old enough to have grown up with Carpenter and Cronenberg on VHS, let alone in the cinema, but he certainly knows how to channel their atmosphere, and he loves the illusion of sfx.
Zach Connors (Graham Skipper, looking weirdly like Daniel Radcliffe) just wants to remain a loner, but he is picked up on a snow-laden road and is taken prisoner by Dr. Michael Slovak (John Speredakos), who also has young Rachel Meadows (Lauren Ashley Carter) as a captive in his institution. The deranged doctor wants to siphon their supernatural telekinetic powers for himself, so he can go beyond the pale. It’s up to Connors to try and rescue Rachel and escape the madman’s clutches, and the doctor’s henchmen.
It’s a race against time, but there will definitely be tears before bedtime, and there will be blood spilled in large amounts. The problem is, it’s all frightfully earnest. Begos tries incredibly hard to capture the essence of Carpenter and Cronenberg, but there are glaring issues, which were very evident in Almost Human, and which he has failed to fix on The Mind’s Eye.
Both movies lack any kind of humour. They are grim and deadly serious, and yet, the premise and action is frequently so absurd that the overt seriousness ends up working against the movie’s impact, instead making many of the more intense scenes come across as risible, absurd, unintentionally hilarious. To compound the silliness as it unfolds - and becomes sillier - is the dreadfully uneven performances. To be honest, almost no one delivers a convincing piece of acting.
And therein lies the bloody Rub. If the acting was better all-round, then the serious intent would feel genuine, and not feel like some kind of ill-conceived parody. Begs is shooting himself in the foot. He is spending a large proportion of his low-budget on the special effects, which are impressive, but if he spent more effort and money on casting decent actors, and/or learned how to elicit the kind of delicate performances required for such intense characters, then his movies would be so much more effective.
Cronenberg and Carpenter understood this very well. Begos has much to learn, but he’s a talented filmmaker, he has a lot of aptitude, I look forward to what he can and hopefully will do with future features.