The Mind's Eye (Movie Review)

The Mind's Eye (Movie Review)
5 10

PLOT: 25 years in the past, an unhinged doctor doing research on widespread telekinesis goes to ultra-violent lengths to track down two patients with the intent of extracting their powers for his own personal gain.

REVIEW: Following the 2013 shoestring sci-fi minor ALMOST HUMAN, his feature debut, writer/director John Begos remains in the realm in order tap into THE MIND'S EYE - a gnarly if uneven, one-tracked telekinetic tyro that thankfully, through its stylish neon-lighting and conclusive visual grotesquery, ends far stronger than it begins. Thing is, onscreen telekinesis requires a whole lot of suspended disbelief, and damn near perfect execution of such in order to achieve it. But here it isn't always pulled off, so when you consider this in tandem with the overbearing austerity of its main performers - way too serious, never campy or kitschy enough to muster much fun - the drama of the story doesn't quite reconcile as all that compelling, or even credible. That said, the last twenty minutes of the flick are almost entirely beyond reproach, as we're given a grisly gala of unbroken grue-soaked action, done so in a manner that fuses tenets of telekinetic sci-fi and old fashion slasher horror. For that, THE MIND'S EYE is almost, almost edifying!

Winter, 1991. Reported cases of telekinesis have spiked to astronomical heights across the country. As a result, The Slovak Institute - headed by the oily and obviously evil Dr. Michael Slovak (John Speredakos) - is conducting extensive research on the subject, culling in and testing various patients from across the nation. This gives us Zack Connors (Graham Skipper) and Rachel Meadows (Lauren Ashley Carter), a pair of powerfully precocious Telekinetics whose supernatural abilities Slovak wants to usurp for his own greedy gain. With Rachel already held captive at the institute, the film opens with Zack being tracked down on the snowy Northeastern streets and brought in for questioning. When he realizes the good doc hasn't his best interest at heart, he flees the scene and heads for his father Mike's house (Larry Fessenden) to hide out. Hunted by the morphing Slovak and his multitude of minions - Kurt (Michael A. LoCicero) and Travis (Noah Segan) among them - Zack shows dogged determination in not only preserving his own safety, but that of Rachel and his father as well.

And by morphing, let's be clear. The injected serum Slovak administers isn't of aide at all to anyone but himself. The psychotic doctor is nefariously extracting the telekinetic properties of his patients and injecting it into his own mind, in essence unlocking the brain's full capacity. LUCY style. The more he injects, the more powerful he grows. It then becomes clear why he's so damn intent on capturing and siphoning Zack and Rachel's mental acuity and why, the stronger he grows, the more inimical he becomes. It's precisely here, in the last 20 or so minutes of the film, where Slovak devolves into full-blown Sam Neill in EVENT HORIZON insane that movie finally finds its stride. For, until then, Speredakos never imbues Slovak with either the kind of over the top hilarity or the pared down sincerity required to make the character really jive. Until the end, up to the point when he isn't saddled with insipid dialogue, Speredakos' performance is too deathly serious to elicit much fun. So too is Graham's for that matter, with only difference being his demeanor never really alters during the volcanic eruption of violence in the end. And because both have so much screen time, the movie interminably suffers.

One of the other chief reasons the movie never quite finds its footing until the end is how monolithic the script is. There's no B-stories, no substantial subplots, no colliding diegesis or enthralling cross-cuts to a competing story-line, nothing. The movie tends to wallow in its overwrought one-track premise, lapping it for all its worth, but because it's all pitched in a grave monotone, the first half of the film feels somehow stuck in place. Or at least lacking momentum. Even the visual design - drab grays and muted winter off-whites - come off as stodgy and uninteresting, at least early on. When the night falls however, and a cascade of stylish neon-lighting cues come into play, the movie almost instantly comes alive with a much needed vibrancy to offset the boring torpor. Even more indicting is how ineffective much of the telekinetic action is. When an actor merely strains, grunts and groans, only to watch an object suddenly float into the air and fly across the room, it hardly passes as believable. More often than not it seems phony, flimsy, and really only aromatic of movies like CARRIE, SCANNERS, FIRESTARTER, and even FRIDAY THE 13TH VII: THE NEW BLOOD, all of which pulled off telekinetic VFX far more convincingly.

To bottle it all up, it's safe to say THE MIND'S EYE starts off rather shakily, only to end on a much sturdier and stronger-handed note. While the story is limited in size and scope, while the acting is dubious for long stretches, while the telekinetic FX aren't terribly passable in relation to other films of its ilk, the movie atones for its shortcomings by giving us balefully blood-dipped, balls-to-the-wall finale. It's not an ending that suddenly turns a bad movie into a good one, but at least the trajectory of the action ends on an upswing and gives us a palpable charge the first half simply couldn't afford. The stylish cinematography by Begos himself goes a long way in masking the dearth of production resources, even if done in a way meant exactly to evoke halcyon sci-fi horror of the 80s. But calling attention to said horror of yore doesn't make your film a contemporary of such, or even an equal. That said, even if it falls short of its inspirations, THE MIND'S EYE certainly flashes promises in Begos as one to keep a trained orb on moving forward.

Extra Tidbit: THE MIND'S EYE hits select theaters Friday, August 5th.
Source: AITH



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