Thursday, June 15, 2023

Jagged Mind, on Hulu

Thrillers about women escaping abusive relationships with men are often pitched with the term “toxic masculinity.” There will be no toxicity applied to this film, but poor Billie would probably be safer dating Archie Bunker than her current girlfriend, Alex. She has a bad feeling terrible things have happened in her life since they met, but she cannot put her finger on anything specific, beyond a few fragmentary visions in Kelley Kali’s Jagged Mind, which premieres today on Hulu.

Viewers will see Billie meet Alex in a bar, several times, for the first time. Evidently, she has a family history of neurological problems that cause cognitive issues, so she already had cause for medical concern. Unfortunately, Billie is starting to blackout and experience time in a non-linear fashion. Alex is determined to take care of her, but she also deliberately isolates Billie from her friends and support network.

Kali and screenwriter Allyson Morgan make it clear from the start that Alex is big, big trouble, but keep the secrets of what she is doing and how reasonably shrouded until the third act.
Jagged Mind is either a light horror movie or a very dark thriller with fantastical elements, but it is different and surprisingly effective. It is also a rare film that explores the darkside of Haitian magic, without digging up any zombies.

Billie’s breakdowns and disjointed perception of reality are critically important, because they offer clues to her situation and build the tension. Fortunately, Kali realizes them quite adroitly. In fact, they are sufficiently sinister to tilt the film into horror territory for a lot of viewers.

Maisie Richardson-Sellers and Shannon Woodward are terrific playing off each other as Billie and Alex. Viewers immediately get their romantic and sexual attraction, while still picking up on something profoundly dysfunctional in their relationship, even though it is obscured from their frame-of-view. The couple shares 90% of the screen-time, but Jimmy Jean-Louis still looks quite imposing as a mysterious mystical figure.

Thanks to the unsettling premise and skillful execution,
Jagged Mind is much more successful than Clock, Hulu’s previous identity-driven horror-ish original film. The truth is, some of its characters really are toxic. Recommended for genre fans who will appreciate its gimmick, Jagged Mind start streaming today (6/15) on Hulu.