Stories about ordinary people surviving and overcoming extraordinary situations — like apocalyptic catastrophes, supernatural disasters, and paranormal horrors — are almost a dime a dozen, but outside of fantastical realms about costumed superheroes (or heroes in hiding), there aren’t quite as many stories about extraordinary people surviving extraordinary situations where their abilities may cause just as much harm as good (characters featured in the Marvel Netflix set of series notwithstanding).
That makes The Mind’s Eye a throwback in more ways than one. The film is set in 1990, before the prevalence of cell phones, social media, even the World Wide Web as we now know it. From a storytelling perspective, it’s an attractive setting, where shady people in positions of authority can get away with a lot more because there’s little accountability and even less of a voice for the average person. What’s a person with unusual abilities, being hunted and hidden away in a secret test lab supposed to do?
Our protagonist, Zack Connors, is someone living under the radar, and when he’s harassed by cops while walking along an isolated road, the reasons why become clear: he’s a telekinetic and he has problems controlling his powers when he feels threatened. Once he’s in custody, the police contact Dr. Michael Slovak, lead scientist at a lab known for dealing with telekinetics, and the doctor makes a deal with Zack: come to his research facility, and he’ll put Zack in touch with his lost love, Rachel Meadows, another telekinetic.
After several months of being a guinea pig with the other end of his devil’s bargain not being upheld, Zack has had enough, and insists on seeing Rachel, or else.
Chaos and destruction and bloody confrontations ensue, and in the aftermath of the breakout and pursuit, Dr. Slovak’s ulterior motives come to light. These revelations lead to some other conflicts, and more a few more bloody incidents with exploding heads and body parts, leading to a conclusion that’s left more than a few doors open to continuation.
The movie is definitely more thriller than horror for me, but that doesn’t make it any less interesting. I’ve seen other reviewers mention how the movie is an updated edition of Scanners (1981), but for me, it’s more in line with another film from that era, The Fury (1978) starring Kirk Douglas, Andrew Stevens, Amy Irving and John Cassavetes, and directed by Brian De Palma.
The Mind’s Eye has some upsides, like the use of darkness to build tension both during daylight hours and deep in the night. Actor John Speredakos’ over-the-top performance as the unhinged scientist is so far out of bounds funny it reminds me of Jeremy Irons’ equally over-the-top performance in Dungeons & Dragons (which in my book is comparably a worse movie).
This movie isn’t perfect (there are some disjointed transitions), but it’s not a complete wash, either. There are some interesting aspects about this alternate version of the world, where people know about the existence of people with telekinesis, but still aren’t quite sure what to do with or about them. I do hope writer/director Joe Begos gets a chance to explore that world a little more, whether it be in a sequel, a web series or even graphic novels.
The Mind’s Eye is available on VOD and iTunes, and will be in select theaters on August 5.
And check out the interview with the filmmaker, Joe Begos, here on Slice of SciFi.
Zack Connors and Rachel Meadows were born with incredible psychokinetic capabilities. When word of their supernatural talents gets out, they find themselves the prisoners of Michael Slovak, a deranged doctor intent on harvesting their powers. After a daring escape, they are free from his sinister institution, but the corrupt doctor will stop at nothing to track them down so that he may continue to siphon their gifts for his own use.
DIRECTED BY: Joe Begos
WRITTEN BY: Joe Begos
CAST: Graham Skipper, Lauren Ashley Carter, John Speredakos, Noah Segan