Telekinesis is a subject that has always fascinated me. After all, who wouldn’t want the ability to move stuff with their mind? In particular, it remains a favorite sub-genre of mine when it comes to fiction, be it in literature or on film. The latter has given us quite a few remarkable tales in the past, such as Brian De Palma’s Carrie and The Fury (both based on novels), David Cronenberg’s Scanners (and its sequels) and Richard Franklin’s Patrick, among many others.
It’s been quite a while since we’ve had a good one, however, let alone a great one. I was not overly fond of the 2013 version of Carrie, and what we’ve been given more recently in the subgenre has skewed more towards superheroics (Chronicle, Pusher, the X-Men films, etc.). In other words, I’m getting my fix, but none of it is tickling the pleasure centers of my telekinesis-loving mind the way I want.
Enter The Mind’s Eye.
2016 has been a pretty good year for independent horror so far. There have been quite a lot titles that I have really enjoyed, but unfortunately a select few that I have outright loved. Simply put, we’re getting a lot of solid hitters, but not so many home runs. The Mind’s Eye, at least for me, is a massive out-of-the-park home run.
So what is The Mind’s Eye? Set in the early ’90s, the film opens with a tone-setting opening crawl detailing how “psychokinetics” came to prominence. We then see a drifter, Zack Connors (Graham Skipper), walking along a desolate winter road and being hassled and picked up by local police. They haul him in for questioning and also contact a local specialist, Dr. Michael Slovak (John Speredakos), who works with Zack’s kind: psychokinetics. Slovak wants Zack to join him at his institute, promising that he can help Zack to learn to better control his abilities.
At first Zack wants nothing to do with Slovak’s offer. Once he finds out that his estranged psychokinetic lover, Rachel Meadows (Lauren Ashley Carter), is currently residing at the institute, he changes his tune. Of course, once Zack moves to the institute and begins undergoing strange methods of therapy, all the while being kept away from Rachel, it quickly becomes clear that something sinister is going on. Slovak has ulterior motives, and nothing good will come of whatever he’s got planned.
Zack manages to stage a breakout, taking Rachel with him, and turning to his father (Larry Fessenden) for help. The couple find themselves on the run from both local law enforcement and Slovak’s cronies, including a John Rainbird-esque psychokinetic Travis Levine (Noah Segan). It wouldn’t be a telekinetic sci-fi/horror movie if it was filled to the brim with exploding heads, pulsating veins, and even crazier body horror aspects. On that note, The Mind’s Eye delivers and then some.
From its First Blood-esque opening to its mic drop of a gooey, explosive finale, this film is an absolute blast from start to finish. Where do I even begin? Everyone is firing on all cylinders here. As much as I enjoyed writer/director Joe Begos’s first film, the alien abduction/slasher hybrid Almost Human, The Mind’s Eye is some next-level filmmaking from him. The script is tight as can be and the pacing just never lets up. Furthermore, it’s strikingly shot, and the editing is also 100% on point. There’s a sequence that intercuts between two wonderfully (and comically) mashed together moments that editor Josh Ethier should be awarded for. You’ll know it when you see it.
The (I’m assuming) all-practical FX work, provided by Brian Spears, is phenomenal. Films that cost 10 (even 20) times as much as this rarely have FX that look this good. If there’s any digital work on display, I can’t find it. If you’ve been craving a prosthetic FX paradise, look no further!
Technical mastery can only get one so far, however. At the end of the day, you have to care about the characters and the film scores here as well. Graham Skipper continues to impress with each passing film, and I think this is his best role yet. A complete 180 from his lead in Almost Human, Zack Connors is an angry, desperate man who just happens to have superpowers. Skipper sells every minute of Zack’s fear and rage.
Lauren Ashley Carter is equally stellar as Rachel Meadows. Carter is another up-and-comer in the genre world who seems bent (whether intentionally or not) on becoming a full-blown genre icon. Jugface, Darling, Pod, The Woman … you name it, she’s great in it. Like Skipper, she has become mark of quality for a production. A name that instantly makes a film worthwhile the moment she becomes attached to it.
Larry Fessenden, Noah Segan, and the other supporting players are all good as well. The biggest revelation for me, however, was John Speredakos. There isn’t a single inch of scenery that Speredakos doesn’t masticate the hell out of as the villainous Dr. Slovak. It’s a performance so over-the-top in all the right ways that it has been wanting to backtrack and watch (or revisit) his earlier turns in the works of Ti West and the aforementioned Fessenden.
I sat down with The Mind’s Eye hoping that I would at least get something on par with my favorite Scanners sequels*. After 87 minutes of me excitedly fist-pumping and howling at the screen (things I almost never do at home), I ended up with what is probably my favorite telekinetic tale to date. I’m probably overselling the hell out of it, which I hate doing, but for this film, I just can’t help myself. I could go on and on. (The score’s fun too!)
The Mind’s Eye might not be for everyone, but I personally loved every pulse-pounding, vein-popping minute of it. Hands down, this is my favorite horror movie of the year so far. If it sounds like it might be up your alley, please give it a look this weekend. Whether you see it on the silver screen or your big screen TV at home, it’s well-worth any indie genre fan’s time. It probably won’t blow everyone’s mind, but it sure blew mine. Watch it! Right now!
* – Scanners III: The Takeover and Scanner Cop, if you’re curious. Is it too much to hope for a sequel where Graham Skipper exiles himself to Thailand, learns psychokinetic martial arts, and then returns to save the world? Or perhaps a Scanner Cop-esque prequel starring Larry Fessenden? I’d pay good money to see both.