What if, instead of helping mutants, Professor Xavier exploited them for his own gains? This is (kind of) the question posed by The Mind’s Eye. riter-director Joe Begos’s follow-up to his ambitious sci-fi horror Almost Human. is both thrilling and thought-provoking.
Sci-fi elements are prevalent here, too, in what Begos himself describes as a telekinetic revenge thriller, which pitches a plucky young couple against a diabolical evil genius. Our hero, Zach (Almost Human‘s Graham Skipper) is a down-on-his-luck type who is wooed by the promise of seeing his one-time love Rachel (Lauren Ashley Carter). But, of course it’s not as simple as that and he winds up in the clutches of the evil Dr. Slovak (John Speredakos).
After discovering the Doc’s true intentions (and not being allowed to see Rachel, as he was promised), Zach stages a daring rescue and escape. What transpires is an often thrilling, sometimes muddled but always gripping, fun action-horror film. It is loaded with enough Cronenbergian body shockers to make the godfather of body horror proud.
The Mind’s Eye is essentially a three-hander between Skipper, Carter and Speredakos. Their central relationship, and conflict, powers (if you’ll forgive the pun) the narrative and ensures that we continue caring in spite of the low-budget restrictions placed upon Begos’s wildly ambitious movie. Thankfully, aside from the inventively gross gore, the casting is its strongest element.
Skipper and Carter are instantly believable as a couple (a well-placed sex scene, juxtaposed against Slovak getting injected with mutant genes, seals the deal in a spectacular way) while Speredakos takes to the villain role with aplomb. A third act turn into the very, very evil could be hammy, particularly considering the make-up and wire work involved in the change, but Speredakos plays it perfectly.
Hell, even his speech intonations alter when he turns. And this is clearly a character Speredakos has spent a long time ruminating over – watch how he rolls up his sleeves in his initial, private interactions with Zach, almost as though he’s getting ready for a fight. His minions are a tad too one-dimensional (man with eye-patch!) but it doesn’t really matter when Slovak is, and should be, the focus throughout.
Elsewhere, Larry Fessenden makes his mark in a smaller role as Zach’s long-suffering father, and The Battery‘s Jeremy Gardner continues to be an enigmatic screen presence in fleeting glimpses throughout. One almost wishes he had a bigger part to play, as he tends to steal focus in the background, even when he’s just twiddling his thumb ring or widening his eyes.
The real star of the show, however, is the gore. Lovingly created using gloriously gooey, practical methods, it’s worth watching the movie for alone. Kicking off with Rachel’s viciously well-choreographed syringe attack, while still under lock and key, the carnage only gets crazier from there, culminating in a face-melting finale that must be seen to be believed.
Begos chooses his snowy, Rhode Island location well, allowing for some great red-on-white shots. The blood splatters are such – one actually hits the camera – that you almost wish The Mind’s Eye could be viewed in 3D to fully appreciate each droplet. We’re warned right off the bat to play the film LOUD (a clever nod in itself), which surely must be in reference to the carnage rather than the dialogue, or action (impressively well-handled throughout).
It certainly doesn’t refer to Steve Moore’s score, which is spooky, Tron-lite electronica, the kind to which we’ve become all too accustomed thanks to the likes of The Neon Demon and, most recently, Stranger Things. However, it compliments the on-screen action better than, say, a nu-metal mosh-off would, even if it’s really just more of the same.
In a world of CGI mush, endless retreads and overcooked posturing, The Mind’s Eye provides a welcome respite with its classic, old-school charm. Begos has no budget for big set-pieces, no time for bullshit jump scares, so instead focuses on his characters, and in putting some real, three-dimensional horror on-screen.
It’s nothing particularly new or particularly life-changing, but Begos presents it all with such passion and panache that it’s impossible not to get on board with his vision. And to want to wipe your face off afterwards, too.
Catch The Mind’s Eye in theaters, VOD, and on iTunes from August 5th, 2016
WICKED RATING: 6/10
Director(s): Joe Begos
Writer(s): Joe Begos
Stars: Graham Skipper, Lauren Ashley Carter, John Speredakos, Jeremy Gardner, Larry Fessenden
Studio/ Production Co: Channel 83 Films
Release date: August 5th, 2016
Length: 97 minutes
Sub-genre: Action, thriller, sci-fi