Review: The Mind’s Eye

The Mind’s Eye
Director: Joe Begos
Starring: Graham Skipper, Lauren Ashley Carter, John Speredakos
Runtime: 87 minutes
Rating: Not Rated

 

The Mind's Eye Movie Review

 

Do you remember when body horror was dark, sexy, and too gory for children?

Joe Begos remembers.

In a DePalma-laced throwback to 70’s/80’s horror, Begos creates an alternate universe in the early 90’s in which gifted outliers with psychokinetic powers roam the country, avoiding attention and trying their best to live a normal life. Zack Connors (played by the talented Graham Skipper) is one such outlier. We meet him at the beginning of the film, walking alone through the snowy town. He seems perfectly fine with his lone wolf status, until some local cops on a power trip accost him into a panic. Restrained in a chokehold, Connors reveals his power and destroys some police property, tossing a cop onto the pavement like a rag doll. An intense, quaking stare is all it takes to remove objects – and people – from his path. Nonetheless, he’s subdued and brought in for questioning.

 

The Mind's Eye Movie Review

 

In the police station, he meets Dr. Slovak. Slovak reels him in like a twisted Dr. Xavier to a wary Wolverine, promising to help him and reunite him with Rachel (played by an expressive Lauren Ashley Carter). Despite his soothing demeanor, Slovak is a bad egg who keeps other such gifted people imprisoned in his home so he can drain their abilities and consume their power. Whereas Connors sees his gift as more of a curse, Slovak sees a nefarious potential in those abilities. The demarcation between good and evil couldn’t be any more clear in this movie, and John Speredakos inhabits the role of power-hungry madman with an over-the-top zeal that you can’t help but grin at. Conversely, Graham Skipper takes a more subdued approach to his role, providing a nice balance to his Lex-Lutherian adversary. It makes sense, as Zack Connors is not a willing hero; rather, he is manipulated into conflict and forced to act accordingly to save those close to him.

Conners eventually grows tired of his captive situation, so he locates and escapes with fellow prisoner Rachel. Dr. Slovak isn’t pleased, and so begins a thrilling chase that ends with an inevitable showdown to prove who wields the baddest brain power on the block. The movie is rife with scifi tropes, creatively deployed in such a manner that at times you forget you’re watching a second effort from an indie director. The themes bear many similarities to those of Scanners, particularly the connection between sexuality and power. It’s obvious that Begos is a Cronenberg enthusiast, and every scene, no matter how crude, is an ode to the body horror master.

For a low-budget film, this really delivers. Begos went in with a low spending limit, and it’s apparent that he spent most of that scratch on the effects department. Considering the finished product, I’m glad he made that decision. The utter carnage that ensued during the third act of the movie was some of the most memorable mayhem I’ve seen in a long time. Exploding heads, flying flesh debris, and not-so-minor axe wounds amplify the scifi celebration. While some cinephiles may balk at the close-up quivering gazes and (wire-supported) swaying axes, Begos’ vision shines through the shoestring budget. This is a legit midnight feature, where staying true to the genre is what really matters. From the mental warfare to the corporate conspiracy to the lively practical effects, The Mind’s Eye stays true.

 

 

Graham Skipper and Lauren Ashley Carter are both in fine form, playing their starring roles with restraint and vulnerable ferocity, respectively. They provide a solemn yin to John Speredakos’s campy yang, and it all just works. Indie horror darling Larry Fessenden shows up in a few endearing scenes as Connors’ father, bringing his A-game to the role, as always. I found it particularly striking that Fessenden’s performance brought more gravity to the conflict, despite dropping in halfway through the film.

The soundtrack is especially of note, as well. From the title card at the beginning reading “THIS FILM SHOULD BE PLAYED LOUD”, the use of sound in the film is paramount. Sound effects are utilized to great effect to display when psychokenetic powers are being used, rather than simply relying on visual cues like nosebleeds and distended veins. Sound effects designer Graham Reznick dishes out a handful of penetrating sounds, like the cerebral rumble that Zack emits when he deploys his kinetic abilities. It creates an unsettling effect common in body horror, particularly – you guessed it – Cronenberg’s Scanners. The film is truly a throwback, and a riotous one, at that.

When it comes down to it, you can hate on the familiar route and threadbare upholstery, or you can crank the tunes and enjoy the ride. The Mind’s Eye is a fun flick, straight up; the kind of film that the late-night double feature was meant for. The rough-around-the-edges production value only adds to the appeal and gives it an authenticity that many genre fans have been looking for in the age of the polished remake and the rebooted cash-grab. Pour some booze, watch it with your friends, and whoop and holler at the gratuitous gore.

Horror Writers Rating: 4/5 stars.

The Mind’s Eye is currently available on VOD and DVD. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FvBIaIBHjA0

10 Books To Read If You Loved Stranger Things

This summer, a nostalgia-laden sci-fi series premiered on Netflix and took America by storm. Stranger Things quickly became a darling of the pop culture world with its copious references to 80s films and sci-fi/horror icons, as it told the tale of a gaggle of kids in a small town hit by the disappearance of their friend, Will Byers. If you’re anything like me, you’re jonesin’ for more creepy, supernatural, totally radical stories to hold you over until Season 2. According to the Duffer Brothers, Season 2 drops in 2017, so we’ll have to wait a bit. Here’s a list of 10 books sure to tickle your fancy as you wait for the Demagorgons to come calling again.

It: A Novel, from Amazon.com.

1. It, by Stephen King. I’d be remiss if I didn’t lead with this book. In 1958, a group of outcast kids, dubbed The Losers Club, rid the town of Derry of a child killer in the form of a killer clown. Twenty-something years later, the clown comes back and the now-grown Losers Club has to finish what they started. The Duffer Brothers are loud and proud about the book’s heavy influence on their show, and with a new adaptation coming down the pike, you’re gonna want to check out (or re-visit) this epic, terrifying novel by one of the best horror authors ever.

 

 

 

Paper Girls Vol. 1, from Amazon.com

2. Paper Girls, by Brian K. Vaughan & Cliff Chiang. Are comic books your preferred medium? Dive into this saga about a crew of paper delivery girls in 1988 who encounter some (forgive me for what I am about to do)…strange things. Odd lights in the sky, townsfolk vanishing, men in masks, and badass female protagonists on an adventure…what’s not to love?

 

 

 

 

 

Something Wicked This Way Comes, from Amazon.com.

3. Something Wicked This Way Comes, by Ray Bradbury. Still packing a punch today, Bradbury’s follow-up to Dandelion Wine contains many of the same characters and is based on Bradbury’s own childhood. Teenagers Jim and Will, next-door neighbors and besties, check out the local carnival when it comes to town. This traveling carnival is sinster, though, and the boys will soon live to regret their curiosity – if they can make it out alive. Dealing with themes of age, time, and the power of youth,this atmospheric and chilling read has withstood the test of time.

 

 

 

Firestarter, from Amazon.com.

4. Firestarter, by Stephen King. Did Eleven’s storyline give you life? Give this 1980 sci-fi thriller a look-see. Like Eleven, the protagonist is a kid who was the subject of some bad government experimentation, and gained superhuman abilities as a result. Unlike El, however, Charlie McGee has pyrokinetic talents that make her quite the weapon. After she and her father (also a victim of the experiments) escape from The Shop, they become fugitives.

 

 

 

 

Disappearance at Devil’s Rock, from Amazon.com

5. Disappearance At Devil’s Rock, by Paul Tremblay. Were you blown away by Winona Ryder’s performance as Joyce Byers? Try this genre-straddling book that blends dark fiction, supernatural horror, and psychological thriller as we follow the mother of a missing boy in her search to find both her son….and answers. The web Tremblay weaves becomes more and more tangled as the mother grapples with local authorities and learns of the local lore among the townsfolk. See a more in-depth review of the book here.

 

 

 

Ready Player One, from Amazon.com.

6. Ready Player One, by Ernest Cline.  When it comes to storytelling, The Duffer Brothers are more subtle with their nods to icons of the 1980s; author Ernest Cline submerses you into pop culture references, as he knows you’ll love every minute of it. This isn’t a dark tale at all; it’s a sci-fi nostalgia trip through the framework of a video game. If you reveled in the Dungeons and Dragons scenes from Stranger Things and swooned over the amazing soundtrack and LOTR love, you’ll have a good time with this book, which is also being adapted into a film, directed by the man himself – Steven Spielberg.

 

 

 

A Monster Calls, from Amazon.com.

7. A Monster Calls, by Patrick Ness. All aboard the feels train! During the season finale of the show, our hearts collectively broke when we caught a glimpse of the loss Sheriff Hopper has suffered. Themes of loss and forgiveness are heavy in this dark tale about a boy visited by a monster in the night. The boy’s mother has cancer, but that’s not what the monster represents. If you want something dark that will recreate the swelling tempest you felt in your chest during that CPR scene in Stranger Things, I recommend picking up a paper copy of this book, not only for the story, but for the surreal, beautiful illustrations.

 

 

 

The Great God Pan, from Amazon.com.

8. The Great God Pan, by Arthur Machen. If you’re a Constant Reader like me, you read the foreword and afterword as if they were part of the story. Stephen King often talks about his inspiration for certain stories of his, and this is one of the stories that had an impact on him (particularly present in his novella, N). Were you totally okay with not having all of the answers by the end of Season 1 of Stranger Things? Did the fact that the Upside Down was minimally explained only deepen the mystery and appeal for you? If you like to let your imagination fill in the blanks, try this horror classic. It involves a scientist obsessed with “lifting the veil” between our world and the spiritual world. He seems to succeed, and the reader is left to fill in the blanks as we learn of a mysterious woman, the deaths of several high society bachelors, and the ancient myth that brings all of these things together.

 

Harrow County, from Amazon.com.

9. Harrow County, by Cullen Bunn & Tyler Crook. Did you find the Upside Down both unsettling and beautiful? How about the Monster itself? You may like this creepy work of art that draws heavily on the Southern Gothic and witch lore. Back in the day, some townspeople in Harrow County decided that one of their own was a witch and, as such, they lynched and burned her alive. Before her gruesome death, she informed them in so many words that this was a poor choice, and that she would return. And return she did, much later, in the form of a teenage girl on a farm. Accompanied by the gorgeous artwork of Tyler Crook, this comic is tragic, creepy, and atmospheric. Support your local comic book store and pick this up.

 

December Park, from Amazon.com.

10. December Park, by Ronald Malfi. Harting Farms, MD. October of 1993. The first body is found. A slew of children then go missing, and their fates are considered to be in the hands of an enigma called The Piper. The cops are no help, and so a group of teenage boys decide to investigate the matter themselves. December Park is the ensuing coming-of-age story. There are boys on bikes making fart jokes, sure enough, but don’t let that fool you — this story gets tense.

 

 

 

 

So, what did you think of the list? What would you recommend to friends to read while they wait for Season 2 of Stranger Things to premiere? Add suggestions below!

Galaxy Invader: Movie Review

 

Synopsis:
An asteroid crashes to Earth and is discovered by a professor and his student.  Is their relationship more than just “professor and student”?  Oh most definitely.
Anyway, the asteroid is a glowing orb and there is also a large, rubbery alien creature and there is a dysfunctional family trying to capitalize on it and a bar full of drunks wanting to murder and so on and so forth.

Pictured: Justice

Thoughts:
Everyone has their favorite bad b-movie that they ran across in a video store.  We used to go to the video store located in the front of Wal-Mart once a month or so and look for the worst movie we could find.  Have you ever seen The Boneyard, in which an old woman and her poodle are turned into hideous, mutated creatures?  Or The Beast, in which a man turns into a drooling, claymated monster for some reason?  Or Puma Man, which involves Aztecs, Stonehenge, Donald Pleasance and the insinuation of a flying sexual encounter?  Because I have.  I’ve seen all of those, and more.  So much more.

My favorite in the bunch was Galaxy Invader.  It was my go-to when a friend was in town.  “You haven’t seen Galaxy Invader?  YOU SIMPLY MUST!”  I’ve seen it more times than I care to count.  I’ve seen it so many times that, when I finally tracked down a copy to buy, I noticed that a line of dialog was missing from the copy I had seen.  I can see JJ saying, “What could I do, Pa, he had a gun,” with his arms in front of him, bouncing awkwardly.  I can see it in my head, but not on my DVD copy.  I own 4 copies of this movie and that dialog is missing from all of them.  It’s a conspiracy, I tells ya.

Did I say I own 4 copies?  Because I meant that I own, um, 0 copies of this movie.  I’m borrowing one from a friend.  You probably don’t know him, so don’t bother asking.  He’ll deny it, anyway.  And he doesn’t have a phone or anything.

Not Pictured: A Phone

This movie is beautiful.  The monster’s suit is terrible and rubbery, and, for a movie called Galaxy Invader, he is not the star of the show.  The star of the show is the Montague family.  The father – Joe – is abusive and leers after the wife of his best friend and owns one shirt that has a giant hole in the middle.  His daughter – who seems to be in her early 30s – desperately wants to run away with her boyfriend, a flannel-clad man who either hides his smoking from her, or was smoking during his shooting breaks and didn’t throw the cigarette away before the camera started rolling.  There’s no way to know for sure.  The wife – Ethel…of course it’s Ethel – just kind of puts up with Joe’s crap for some reason.  Their son is an idiot and is easily in his 40s.

Joe’s best friend is a cowboy-hat wearing jackass by the name of Frank Custer*.  For some reason, Frank is a big figure in the community and can easily gather up a bunch of trigger-happy drunks at a moment’s notice.  Frank says things they “HEYYY GOOOOD,” and has large strings of drool escape his mouth when he removes his cigar.  Frank’s wife – the aforementioned object of Joe’s affection – is Vickie.  She wears low-cut shirts and has a mole that reflects light.

The back of the VHS box shows a scene that never comes close to happening in the movie.  Not in any of the copies that I…I mean, my friend owns.  My friend.  Who, again, you probably don’t know.

The ending is delightful.  Just delightful.  I once watched this movie in a room full of people who had never seen it and the entire room erupted into roars of laughter.  It’s unreal.  It’s one of my all-time favorite scenes in any movie ever.  It’s perfect.  I would highly recommend that you watch the full movie.  But, if you just want to skip to the end, well…

The full movie is on YouTube!  I repeat, it’s on YouTube!

This movie is terrible and trashy and I love it completely.  Please watch it so we can all talk about it.  Please.  Please?

Pretty please?

Rating: 15/5

* Frank Custer is played by Don Leifert.  In the credits, it says, “Hat Provided by Don Leifert.”  They had a line in the credits that told us that he brought his own cowboy hat.  That always killed me.

 

The World’s End Movie Review

World's End - Poster

Description from Netflix:
Twenty years after attempting a marathon pub crawl, a group of friends reunited to give it another shot.  Their ultimate destination is the World’s End pub, whose name turns out to be rather literal.

Notable actors:
Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Martin Freeman, Paddy Considine, Eddie Marsan, Pierce Brosnan, Michael Smiley, David Bradley, Rosamund Pike, Mark Heap, Bill Nighy, Peter Serafinowicz, and many, many more.  This movie became an exercise in “name that actor from previous Edgar Wright productions”.  “Look, it’s Duane Benzie.  Look, it’s ‘the other Andy’.  Tyres!  Brian!”  And so on.

My thoughts:
Anyone who knows me knows that I love Edgar Wright.  Beyond my love of the first two installments in the Cornetto Trilogy (Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz), I also love Scott Pilgrim vs. The World and Spaced.  I’ve seen each of the movies at least five times, and have gone through the entire series of Spaced at least three times.   I might be in love with him.  I’ve made my peace with that.

World's End - Ink on Our Hands

This one had a different feel to it.  It had the same message as Shaun of the Dead (trying to grow up and leave childish things behind), but with a more somber tone.  Shaun was a slacker.  Gary is an alcoholic.  Shaun’s attempts at trying to save the lives of his loved ones were heartwarming.  Gary’s attempts at trying to save his loved ones were selfish. And so on.

World's End - Drinking

There were serious moments in the previous two films, but nothing like what we saw here.  I’m hesitant to say much more than that, lest I mention any minor spoilers.  There were quite a few genuinely heartbreaking moments here.  And, while the previous films had some of these as well (the goodbye scene between Shaun and Ed in Shaun of the Dead always gets me), there were a greater number of them here, and they all hit home.

That’s not to say there weren’t jokes.  There were plenty of jokes.  But some of these jokes were different from the rest of the series.  Where the other two movies had a lot of quick-hitting jokes that were set up well, this one seemed to go for easy humor, at least in the beginning.  Weird little jokes, like Gary calling a glass door a “windoor”.
Since most of these jokes came from Gary (the one in a state of arrested development), I assume that they were in there to get pity laughs from the audience.  They were cheap jokes.  Obvious jokes.  And they were coming from a man-child who was obviously trying to relive his high school days.  I believe we weren’t supposed to find these jokes funny, but were there to help us connect to Gary on a deeper level.  We felt the same level of pity for him that his former friends did.  These jokes were as desperate as Gary.  If that was indeed the reason for them, then Edgar Wright is brilliant.  (In case you wondered, I firmly believe this is the case.)

Still, the majority of my theater laughed pretty hard at most of these attempted jokes, so I thought that I was missing something.  Upon further review, I don’t believe that to be the case at all.
One of the people in my theater nearly hyperventilated when a white-haired Cumberbatch appeared as Julian Assange is a trailer for The Fifth Estate, and later giggled maniacally when Martin Freeman showed up.  Other people started laughing when Gary told the others his mom died of “the big cancer” (someone actually repeated “cancer” loudly, then laughed heartily).  These were the people laughing at everything.  For the record, I love Sherlock, but I have a feeling that most of the people laughing haven’t seen many British TV shows/movies outside of Sherlock, so they assume that every single line said in this movie was supposed to be a joke.

World's End - Exited Bathroom

“The door says ‘Gents’.  HAHAHAHAHAHA!”

Opening jokes aside, there really were a handful of terrific jokes in this film.  As is the case with the Cornetto Trilogy, a lot of the major laughs involved either extreme violence or extreme profanity, both of which I approve of.  The first really big laugh involved the first fight with a robot in a pub bathroom.  It was drunken and violent, and it ended with a decapitated teenager in a puddle of blue liquid.  And it killed me.
All of the fight scenes were terrific.  As the movie progressed and our heroes drank more, the fights got steadily sloppier.  It was obvious that a lot of thought was put into each fight.
After watching this, I found out that the stunt coordinator was also the stunt coordinator on Drunken Master, which makes perfect sense.

World's End - Andy Fight

I loved the look of the robots.  They looked like normal people, but, when they charged to fight, they revealed bright blue lights from their mouths and eyes.  It was a great visual, and I couldn’t help but be reminded of the aliens in Attack the Block.

World's End - Aliens

One of the things that ties the Cornetto Trilogy together are some recurring jokes.  Here are a handful of the jokes I saw here:

1. Cornetto.  Of course.  It makes a very late appearance here.
2. Jumping the fence.
3. The noise the bar game makes when it starts up.
4. Knocking over a “Stay off the grass” sign.

I’m sure there are more that I missed.  I guess that means I’ll just have to watch all of them again.  That’s a challenge I can meet.  I’m nothing if not thorough.

World's End - Gary Running

Overall, I really liked this.  It was a great take on the sci-fi/bodysnatcher genre.  I would rank it my third favorite in the trilogy, but that’s more due to the strength of the previous films than the weaknesses of this one.  I have a feeling this will get better the more I watch it.  I look forward to many repeated viewings once this makes it to DVD.

Rating: 5/5