It’s been about a year since I last wrote a review for B-D. Within that time, the manner in which I judge a film’s merits has altered to some extent. I have my 7-year old boy to thank for that. For children, it’s all about the experience of being taken away, being immersed into the world in which the filmmaker has created. Being in the moment, so to speak. I’m certain that’s how Writer/Producer/DP/Director Joe Begos would want you to go into his sophomore feature The Mind’s Eye, a highly entertaining ode to the telekinetic subgenre.
The film follows drifter Zach Conners (Graham Skipper) who happens to possess telekinetic abilities. He’s lured into an institution run by the seemingly sympathetic Dr. Michael Slovak (John Speredakos), a clinic occupied by others with similar powers. Zach soon plans their escape when he discovers Dr. Slovak’s true intentions. Begos’ directorial debut Almost Human (2013) was not without its charms yet overall felt undercooked. This is not the case with The Mind’s Eye. He’s still working on a smaller scale than most yet Begos takes a step forward on every level. Begos cinematography is visually accomplished, capturing the look of the era successfully. Where Almost Human felt too restrained, The Mind’s Eye gets certifiably batshit crazy. Fans of the trashier side of 80’s genre cinema will love it for that quality. This is the bastard child of David Cronenberg’s Scanners and Brian De Palma’s The Fury I’ve been waiting for.
The Mind’s Eye keeps the narrative simple and moving along at a brisk pace for its 87-minute duration. We get just enough character development where we can invest into its protagonists. There’s nothing new here but that doesn’t deter in the enjoyment of the film. Big props must be given to the cast who play the material spot-on. Begos’ muse Skipper delivers another committed performance as our chief protagonist Zach Connors. He brings an honest everyman quality I responded to. As for our other telekinetic hero Rachel Meadows, Lauren Ashley Carter (The Woman) is equally strong. Stealing the show, as well as chewing up ample scenery is Speredakos’ uber-villainous Dr. Michael Slovak. The trajectory of his performance is an absolute blast to behold. To name a few others, the leads are very well supported by the likes of Jeremy Gardner (The Battery) , Noah Segan (Deadgirl), Michael A. LoCicero (Almost Human) and the always memorable Larry Fessenden (We Are Still Here).
The Mind’s Eye is stubbornly old-fashioned in the FX department. Refreshingly there is no CG in sight. Practical effects reign supreme. Blood, guts and exploding heads gloriously splat onto the canvas. Much like he did on Almost Human, Begos preserves the attributes of late 70’s-80’s genre cinema that we know and love. I would go as far as saying that Begos takes his cue from underappreciated Italian genre greats such as Luigi Cozzi (Contamination) and Umberto Lenzi (Nightmare City, Cannibal Ferox) who specialized in making imaginative knock-offs of more popular titles. Another one of the film’s strengths is Steve Moore’s pulsating score. He is one half of the amazing electronic rock band Zombi and composer of Adam Wingard’s The Guest and Jonas Govaerts’ Cub. This is his finest soundtrack to date. In particular, Moore kills it during the sequences in which telekinesis is on display.
Make no mistake, The Mind’s Eye is a B picture through and through and unashamedly so. It grows perpetually sillier as it progresses along. The third act erupts in a full-on display of hilariously gargantuan acting and buckets of bloody fireworks that satisfies in spades. Begos successfully captures the unpretentious absurdity that the genre’s less respected but much-loved (by hardcore fans) gems possessed. He does this lovingly without ever reducing the material to a parody of his inspirations. This film really brought me back to my adolescence, to the time where I discovered and fell in love with the trashy outsiders that filled up the racks of my local video store. At best, The Mind’s Eye comes across as one of those dust-filled, long-lost VHS treasures from the peak of the home video age (cue The Dude’s Design box art), just waiting to be played and worn out like so many of our favorites.