Since first catching wind of "The Mind's Eye" early this year, I couldn't stop thinking about it. Everything about the film's production tickled me in all the right places and in all the right ways - especially with me being a huge fan of David Cronenberg's work and this film, paying tribute to - which made the wait for it's eventual domestic release announcement that much harder to bear. It came of course, but with it there dwelled in me a simultaneous feeling of euphoria and an unshakable increasing level of fear. Sure, the film was nearly within my grasp and there was every possibility Joe Begos would blow my damn mind, but considering the level of anticipation I had built-up in my head, there was also the danger of setting myself up for major disappointment.
Fast forward a few days. August 5th had come and gone, the film finally found it's way to select theaters here in the states, and more conveniently, onto popular digital streaming platforms courtesy of RLJ Entertainment (incidentally how I viewed the film). This left me then with the million dollar question, did it live up to the (mostly self-made) hype? Was it worthy of the lofty, prestigious label, "spiritual successor to Scanners" bestowed upon it by the horror community? Well, answering that question this early in the review would ruin the fun, right? So please, read on, and discover that the conclusion I reach is probably more predictable than an M. Night Shyamalan level twist.
Right, so what exactly is "The Mind's Eye" about? Simple; the evil Dr. Michael Slovak (John Speredakos) is luring and trapping telepaths into his research facility - Zack Connors (Graham Skipper) and Rachel Meadows (Lauren Ashley Carter) being the most gifted - and intends to harvest their abilities for his own demented purpose. They have to stop him; and that's really all there is to it.
But that's a good thing.
You see, the narrative is told in a straight laced manner with a plot line that's simple yet perfectly effective in setting up the moments we came to see. Namely bad-ass telepaths doing bad-ass telepathic shit. Like ripping people in two as if they were a human phone book, causing heads to explode like a meaty pasta-filled pinata, twisting and snapping necks like bottle caps, remotely controlling sharp objects and sending them on a satisfyingly bloody trajectory through limbs, all the while making crazy faces (not-unlike the kind made when severely constipated) and screaming through sweat soaked, nose-bleeding power struggles. In a word, it's undeniably "hype", and thank god Begos is willing to go full tilt and embrace everything that entails, fully and emphatically.
Let's get one thing out of the way, yes, this film absolutely pays homage to David Cronenberg's trailblazing classic, "Scanners". However, the proximity to which it plays to that film's plot line, story-telling style, and aesthetic, is distanced enough to safely say that "The Mind's Eye" is its own, unique take, on the telekinetic horror sub-genre genre; a damn fine one at that.
Our aforementioned three leads do a phenomenal job selling us on their respective plights, with Graham and Lauren demonstrating great chemistry that translates to a very believable romantic bond between their two on-screen characters (which in turn makes for some very tense scenes late in the film). It's also worth mentioning the fantastic physical performance both actors bring to their respective roles, specifically in how well they emote through facial contortions when using their abilities. One ultra-violent scene in particular has Lauren's character Rachel, push her telekinetic capabilities to their maximum potential, and it's her facial expression, body language, head movement and eye-peeled gaze that completely sell us on what the effect such usage would have on someone's head. And It's good too, OH BOY, is it good. Of course, not to let our heroes take all the credit, John Speredakos absolutely kills it as Dr. Slovak, playing the role as if he were a Hanna-Barbera villain; he's over-the-top, exceedingly frightening and like any awesome bad-guy should be, completely full of himself. He also has this cool modulation applied to his voice when he reaches full power, so we know that at that point, he isn't one to be playing mind games with (heh).
Of course, great performances can only take us so far in a movie about violent displays of telekinetic powers, especially in one that aims to follow in the bloody footsteps left by the heavy hitters of the sub-genre. Thankfully, it's this key area of production that "The Mind's Eye" sports 20/20 vision. You have to know by now that this is an exceedingly violent film, but not only that, it's depiction of said violence is some of the most convincing we've had the pleasure of being privy to in any smaller budget independent film in the last couple of years. Without giving anything away (try as much as possible to go into this one blind) most of the gruesome moments easily rival, if not surpass, the more impressive violent segments found in much higher budget films of it's ilk. Yes, this includes the now famous final battle scene and head explosion in, "Scanners". When all's said and done, horror fans will be left pleasantly exhausted while gore hounds will feel completely satisfied; our hat's off, and bravo, to the ultra talented FX department.
So then, the - at this point - predictably obvious verdict. "The Mind's Eye" is a gleefully violent, synth-fueled homage to Cronenberg's, "Scanners" and a great addition to the criminally underappreciated telekinetic horror sub-genre. Joe Begos gets major mileage from the small budget with great performances from the leads, impressive practical FX work, and a colorfully moody neon aesthetic, but most important of all, crafts a very fun film that doesn't overstay it's welcome. Now, head on over to your local art-house theater or favorite video-streaming service and watch this one asap, they don't come this hot, this sick, this often - and remember, if the gory bits have got you feeling a bit woozy, "mind over matter".