Monday, August 01, 2016

The Mind’s Eye: Begos Gets Scannery

New England is a weird place. The same vaguely defined Northeastern region that is home to Lovecraft’s Miskatonic University is probably also served by UHF Channel 83, whose eyewitness news team regularly reports on the bloody aftermath of Joe Begos’s films. They should have enough carnage for a week of leads in Begos’s Cronenbergian nostalgia trip The Mind’s Eye (trailer here), which opens this Friday in New York.

Given its enduring cultural significance, it is strange Cronenberg’s Scanners has not been ripped off more. Begos will soon set that right. Zack Connors is a heck of a lot like a Scanner. He was born with potent telekinetic power that he has always struggled to control, especially when dumb cops pester him like he is Bruce Banner. Even though he has largely lived the life of a drifter, he still forged relationships with some of his own kind. Rachel Meadows is a particularly special case. To see her again, Connors reluctantly but willingly agrees to live within the rules and confines of Dr. Michael Slovak’s sketchy research institute. Unfortunately, the mad scientist keeps Connors and Meadows separated to maintain his control over them.

Slovak keeps his research subjects on experimental drugs to inhibit their powers, but Connors quickly starts to build a tolerance. He bides his time, hoping to find Meadows and make a break for it. However, his formidable powers will be exceeded by those of Dr. Slovak, who is siphoning off the mojo of prisoner-patients for his own enhancement. Heads will definitely ‘splode.

While Begos’s Almost Human just felt retro for retro’s sake, Mind’s Eye fully embraces the look, spirit, and conventions of Scanners and its knock-off sequels, as well as Brian De Palma’s The Fury and Carrie. It is gory, pulpy, and deeply skeptical of authority. It also has genre favorite Larry Fessenden appearing as Connors’ father, Mike (yes, that would make him Mike Connors). It is a relatively small but substantial role that even gives Fessenden an opportunity for some real acting.

Graham Skipper’s Connors is appropriately moody and intense. Just looking at him could give you a headache. Emerging genre star Lauren Ashley Carter (Darling, Jug Face) is also impressively twitchy and bedraggled. John Speredakos is just okay chewing the scenery as Dr. Slovak, but it nice to see regular genre repertory players Noah Segan and film editor Josh Ethier doing their thing as henchmen.

Everything about Mind’s Eye screams old school, but it still holds together as a cohesive narrative rather than just stringing together hat-tips to the 1980s masters. Gritty, grimy, and satisfying, The Mind’s Eye is highly recommended for horror fans when it opens this Friday (8/5) in New York, at the Village East.