While Almost Human marked a memorable feature debut for up-and-comer Joe Begos, The Mind’s Eye represents an unfortunate step backwards. The film feels more like a first-time effort built on unsteady ground, stumbling over a minefield of miscues that rarely pull together the tight, fluid terrors of Almost Human. This psychokinetic Scanners homage falls into a repetition of cut-rate effects and low-budget confidence, constantly failing to marry either aspect with Begos’ passionate respect for a genre he clearly adores and respects. It all sounds great on paper, like an aggressive cut of The Men Who Stare At Goats, but actors scrunching their faces while “emitting brainwave attacks” can only entertain for so long…
Indie workhorse Graham Skipper stars as Zack Connors, a gifted individual being held by antagonist Dr. Michael Slovak (John Speredakos). The imprisonment is not mutually beneficial, as it turns out that Dr. Sloak is keeping a house full of psychokinetic warriors so he can drain their abilities, and make himself the strongest mind-warrior of all. Conners eventually grows tired of the situation, so he escapes with fellow prisoner Rachel Meadows (Lauren Ashley Carter). Dr. Slovak is none too pleased, and so begins a chase that ends with an inevitable showdown to prove who wields the strongest psychokinetic brain on the block.
The Mind’s Eye is a fun B-Movie in concept, and maybe your tolerance for schlock might be strong enough to endure the wishy-washy bouts of action, “dangling on wires” effects and hambone performances. Not ignoring Begos’ strengths, people’s heads f$cking explode to some pretty gruesome extremes. Like, eviscerated-and-exploding-in-a-pulpy-red-mist kind of stuff. There’s no doubt that Begos goes for balls-to-the-wall sci-fi exploitation, and a few scenes reflect Begos’ still-in-tact status as an indie horror name you need to track. The ideas are there, and creativity is vivid – slug back a few cold ones, and you might have a decent-enough time.
Yet, not all is right in this frozen 90s thriller. There are little dents, like rented-out vacation homes doubling as secret government facilities, or hook-and-wire tricks pulling furniture and throwing objects – and then there much bigger detractors. Begos goes fully practical here, which sadly backfires in some of the most crucial moments when actors can’t hide the wires they’re clearly dangling on, yelling at one another until someone’s head bursts. All the eye-bleeding and close-to-asphyxiated faces cheapen like a Halloween novelty after a while, and all that’s left are memories of a swaying axe above Noah Segan’s head – not the decapitation that follows.
The gimmick of psychokinesis plays like a one-note coolness factor that eventually grows tiresome, even with Begos’ seedy dedication to 80s genre stank. Musical compositions by Steve Moore slice through scenery with synth-heavy beats, while Begos toys around with deep blue and bright red light filters (like a yin and yang). Carpenter/Cronenberg influences strive for down-and-dirty graphic violence, while snowy backdrops and home-sweet-home locales are ravaged by bloody rampages. Graham Skipper’s role is an emotive take that at least sells believable mental drainage, and once again Lauren Ashley Carter flashes her indie credentials as a genre maven – but, the lows are distracting, and far more prevalent than any highs.
The Mind’s Eye sounds like a surefire midnight win, yet Begos’ child-like enthusiasm around cranium-popping violence can’t save this made-for-Chiller plunge into psychokinetic horrors. For a film so hinged on heightened genre thinking, most scenes play in a terribly nondescript way, somehow making brainwave warfare seem like a juvenile imaginary game. It doesn’t help that Dr. Slovak isn’t exactly a villain worth investing in, or that a jarring sex-scene is added for [insert explanation here], as allure fades with each passing psycho-duel. The sum of Begos’ talents are so much grander than The Mind’s Eye, which captures his mindset, but falters in execution. Cheers to those who enjoy it for what it is, but I’ll be waiting to see how the young-buck looks to elevate himself with whatever comes next – and I’ll still do so excitedly.
The Mind's Eye lacks a taught, tense backbone that Begos was able to find in his first film, Almost Human.