It’s been two years since writer/director Joe Begos attended Glasgow Film Festival’s FrightFest with his debut feature Almost Human; while it was could not have been described as the most sophisticated, nor the most original or the most artistic of the many offerings of that weekend, it was certainly among the most outrageously entertaining.
Returning to the near sold-out Glasgow Film Theatre on the evening of Friday 28th February for the UK premiere of The Mind’s Eye, Begos brought the delighted audience a second heaped serving of more of the same, an unpretentious low-budget splatter movie as much about the laughs as the horror.
Introduced as a “snow drenched revenge movie,” the bleakness intentionally recalls David Cronenberg’s Scanners as the camera follows a lone man along the side of a country highway. His name is Zack Connors (Almost Human and Re-Animator: The Musical‘s Graham Skipper), and despite his bedraggled appearance he is a dangerous and powerful man, and while he would rather be left alone the police have other ideas.
By the end of the eighties, over a hundred cases of psychokinesis had been identified. It is now November 1990, and the sinister Doctor Michael Slovak (The Innkeepers‘s John Speredakos) has been tracking Zack and his missing friend Rachel Meadows (Jug Face‘s Lauren Ashley Carter) since “the Chicago incident,” and now he has them both as patients in his remote secure facility.
Slovak approached Zack as a friend, offering him respite and access to Rachel, but as time goes on it becomes apparent he has no intention of making good on his promises. Drugging them to subdue their powers even as he extracts their bodily fluids to isolate and replicate their abilities in what could be “the key to one of the biggest scientific breakthroughs ever seen.”
In fact it is Slovak’s intention to weaponise it with himself as the first test subject, elevating himself to the homo superior. With their tolerance to the sedatives increasing, Zack and fellow inmate David are able to surreptitiously test their returning powers, but it is a race whether they will gain sufficient strength to attempt escape from Slovak and his henchmen before they are no longer of use.
Utterly ridiculous but hugely entertaining beginning to end, The Mind’s Eye makes no apology for being a homage to Scanners but beyond that there are echoes of Firestarter, the Slovak Institute of Psychokinetics reminding of “the Shop,” and of course the car-flipping expertise of another of Stephen King’s adolescent protagonists, Carrieta White, and nor does Begos allow himself to become indulgent, holding himself just below ninety minutes including credits.
With Steve Moore’s soundtrack merging the retro synth of Carpenter and the atmosphere of Badalamenti and a special credit for Graham Reznick for “special telekinetic audio design,” the film captures the ethos of excess of the era which it gleefully recreates, the majority of the splendidly messy effects achieved practically as it descends into an absolute orgy of satisfyingly bloody violence in the final reel confrontation with the mutated Slovak.
Shot in “a New England blizzard” over thirty seven days for a third of a million dollars, the cast includes We Are Still Here‘s Larry Fessenden as Zack’s retired police officer father, The Battery‘s Jeremy Gardner and Tales of Halloween‘s Noah Segan alongside Michael A LoCicero and Josh Ethier, two more of Begos’ former associates from Almost Human.
Intended to be produced through a studio but eventually funded independently to avoid the escalating overheads and to allow Begos to maintain direct control over every aspect of the production, it is to be hoped that having sealed his reputation he is able to move swiftly ahead with his next proposed projects, “a Satanic summer camp movie” and “a brutal time travel movie, Looper meets Evil Dead.”
The Mind’s Eye has secured both UK and US distribution with an eye towards “the end of the summer” with details to be announced soon