M.L. Miller here! As I go into the tenth year of reviewing horror films, I wanted to go back to the beginning and repost some of the films I loved. Moving on to Year Six of my year-long Retro-Best in Horror I’m recapping the Countdown beginning officially on October 1, 2015 and going through September 30, 2016. I have posted compilation lists in the past, but a lot of those old reviews haven’t seen the light of day since they were first posted many moons ago. Being the OCD person that I am, I have also worked and reworked the list, looking back at my own choices and shifting them around, and even adding a few that I might have missed or looked over from the year in question. So, if you think you know how these lists are going to turn out, you don’t! Don’t forget to like and share my picks with your pals across the web on your own personal social media. Chime in after the review and let me know what you think of the film, how on the nose or mind-numbingly wrong I am, or most importantly, come up with your own darn list…let’s go!
Released on August 5, 2016. Available on DVD, BluRay, and On Demand from RLJ Entertainment! Also available on Tubi!
THE MIND’S EYE (2015)
Directed by Joe Begos
Written by Joe Begos
Starring Graham Skipper, Lauren Ashley Carter, John Speredakos, Larry Fessenden, Noah Segan, Matt Mercer, Michael A. LoCicero, Jeremy Gardner, Patrick M. Walsh, Brian Morvant, Josh Ethier, Susan T. Travers, Chuck Doherty, Jesse Dufault, Graham Reznick
Joe Begos burst onto the scene a short while ago with ALMOST HUMAN, an ode to John Carpenter which modernized Carpenter’s style, subject matter (specifically THE THING and maybe a bit of STARMAN), and even swiped the font for the title credits. Some felt this homage was a bit too on the nose, while others felt it was the emergence of a fresh new voice in horror. This year, Begos is making waves once again with another film that lifts quite a bit from films like David Cronenberg’s SCANNERS, Brian De Palma’s THE FURY, and maybe a bit of FIRESTARTER and THE DEAD ZONE tossed in there for good measure, but still offers up enough fun to make it much more than just parts from previous genre films.
The film follows the troubled life of Zach Connors (played by the almost-too-much-looking-like-Elijah-Wood-that-it’s-scary Graham Skipper—who starred in Begos last film) who is picked up by the police as he wanders through a small town, much like John Rambo in FIRST BLOOD. After a run-in with the cops where Zach displays telekinetic powers, he is put on the radar of Dr. Slovak (John Speredakos), who runs a clinic that specializes in treating people with psychic powers. In this clinic is Rachel (the always amazing and beautiful Lauren Ashley Carter from DARLING and POD), Zach’s missing girlfriend who has powers of her own. Agreeing to return to the clinic with Slovak, Zach uncovers the doctor’s true intentions, which is stealing spinal fluid from the psychokinetic patients for selfish means. After a bold escape from the clinic, Zach and Rachel must face a psychokinetic-powered-up Slovak and his thuggish guards in order to regain their freedom.
Because there have been iconic horror movies made from this subject matter, comparisons are going to be many with those films I listed above. And while those would be valid comparisons, instead of accusing a lift, I feel Begos did a fantastic job of diluting what made those films about psychic phenomena so effective and put together a really fun action and intrigue flick with a whole lot of gore and a ton of genre actors being sloshed with it. No horror fan should be disappointed as this film does a lot of the things SCANNERS did and I found this film just as fun as Cronenberg’s classic head-burster. Yes, there is a slo-mo exploding head, but man, does it come at a time in this film that fits perfectly with the intensity of the action going on. There’s a lot of really soppy, gooey gore here and I applaud Begos for going for broke with the wet stuff in this hard-edged actioner. While the scope is pretty small, and most likely the budget was as well, money was spent on effects and they are definitely worth every penny.
The other appeal to this film is that it stars some of the most loved faces in indie horror at the moment. Lauren Ashley Carter doesn’t have as much to do here as she did in POD and DARLING, but what she does is great, providing the heart of the film with Rachel’s relationship with Zach. Graham Skipper is damn great here as the lead and John Speredakos fills the shoes of the villain comfortably with a lot of growling menace. But the smaller roles are filled out with folks of equal talent such as the Godfather of modern horror Larry Fessenden as Zach’s Dad, THE BATTERY’s Jeremy Gardner as a jittery guard, CONTRACTED’s Matt Mercer as a fellow patient in the clinic, THE DEAD GIRL and STARRY EYES’ Noah Segan as a guard with powers of his own, and I especially enjoyed the down to earth snark from ALMOST HUMAN’s Michael A. LoCicero as another guard at the facility. All of these familiar faces showing up in one movie makes this a genre fan’s treat.
THE MIND’S EYE also offers up a synth score and special sound effects that take this film to another level of cool. The sound effects used to exemplify when powers are being used are as unique as is the Carpenter-esque synth music played throughout, once again calling back to the 80’s. Sound is important here as most of the time, the camera is being focused on two guys grunting at one another as they try to fight each other with mind power. This could come off as goofy as hell, but with some finessed usage of sound effects, music, and editing, these scenes of mind battle come off as exciting rather than laughable.
One thing I noticed is that there’s an awful lot of spitting in THE MIND’S EYE. Unless Begos is going for a specific gimmick or inside joke, I’d advise the filmmaker to watch the amount of saliva being hacked forth from mostly all of his actors. Loogeys are spat in faces in defiance and down at fallen opponents by almost everyone in the cast and it got to be quite fun to predict who is spitting at who as this film proceeded. That said, THE MIND’S EYE is yet another example of how filmmaker Begos is able to make big time horror on a low budget. Someone give this guy more money. If ALMOST HUMAN and THE MIND’S EYE are any indication, Begos is bound for greatness in the world of horror.
THE 2015-2016 COUNTDOWN!
M. L. Miller is a wordslinger/writer of wrongs/reviewer/interviewer/editor of MLMILLERWRITES.COM. Follow @Mark_L_Miller.
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