Writer/director Joe Begos’ second genre effort, The Mind’s Eye, feels like it could have been an early ’90s spin-off from the world of Scanners, with the up-and-coming filmmaker wearing his influences proudly on his sleeve. However, the difference between The Mind’s Eye and other recent projects that evoke feelings of grungy horror nostalgia, is that Begos never relies too heavily on our love of the movies of yesteryear, instead creating a film that can stand proudly on its own two feet.
That being said, there are aspects of The Mind’s Eye that are a bit rough around the edges, and one of the film’s actors almost derails the whole effort, but by and large, Begos’ latest feature is an ambitious throwback telekinetic tale that’s explosively fun and a solid step forward for Begos as a visual storyteller.
The Mind’s Eye follows Zack Connors (Graham Skipper), a telekinetic who has been traveling on his own for some time, until he comes across a few cops who push all his wrong buttons, resulting in him showing off his mental abilities in the most unfortunate of ways. Zack’s misdeeds land him in the Slovak Institute, where he is surrounded by other folks who exhibit similar special abilities, including Rachel (Lauren Ashley Carter), a friend of Zack’s who went missing some time ago. The two are reunited and conspire to break out of the Institute, which displeases the maniacal Doctor Slovak (John Speredakos), who has been studying the telekenetics and doing experiments on them in an effort to satisfy his own sinister agenda. And when Zack and Slovak finally do square off in the finale of The Mind’s Eye, you can be sure of one thing: heads are going to roll (shortly after they explode in gory fashion, of course).
I was a big fan of Begos’ directorial debut, Almost Human, which was his gritty take on the alien subgenre, so I was really excited to see what he could do while playing around in another horror-themed sandbox, and for the most part, The Mind’s Eye succeeds. Rather than letting his microbudget stand in the way of the film’s over-the-top splattertastic special effects, Begos and his team give us an impressive amount of gruesome head-bursting deaths that would put films with ten times their budget to shame. On paper, it would seem that a premise built around psychokinesis would allow Begos a few outs, especially since his actors could drive the film’s action more with just an intense look or two, but he decides to go all out with The Mind’s Eye, and as a horror fan, I can only applaud that kind of ballsiness on Begos’ part.
Skipper, who has become something of a fixture in the indie horror scene as of late, gives a strong performance in The Mind’s Eye, but it’s Carter who ends up stealing the show and proving that she’s absolutely an acting force to be reckoned with (if you missed it earlier this year, Carter is also stellar in Mickey Keating’s Darling). A few other familiar faces pop up throughout The Mind’s Eye, including Larry Fessenden, Noah Segan, Jeremy Gardner, Matt Mercer, and Josh Ethier, and I enjoyed their contributions immensely (Segan rocking an eye-patch might be one of the coolest things ever).
Unfortunately, though, Speredakos makes for a horrible villain and nearly derails The Mind’s Eye with his overacting. I didn’t necessarily want Zack to defeat him just because Dr. Slovak has it coming; it was more so just because I could not wait for Speredakos’ performance to be over. Thankfully, there’s so much good stuff about The Mind’s Eye that works really well, and that more than makes up for Speredakos’ efforts here.
As far as indie horror films go, The Mind’s Eye is a pretty rad effort from Begos and company and proves you don’t need millions of dollars to give fans ambitious effects and thrilling action set pieces. If you’re a big fan of Almost Human or any of the films that influenced the material here, then you’ll undoubtedly enjoy the head-popping mayhem that is on display in The Mind’s Eye, and I eagerly look forward to whatever Begos cooks up next.
Movie Score: 3.5/5