Flesh, Gored On
UK Directed by Robert Pratten
4 Digital Media DVD Region 2
Warning: Slight spoilers.
Mindflesh is a relatively low budget horror movie which I picked up on DVD very cheaply and which looked... well, kinda interesting. If you’re wondering, it’s exactly one of those films which does fairly well at independent film festivals like FrightFest (for all I know, it probably did go to FrightFest at some point?). It’s by no means the greatest horror movie you’re likely to see but, having now watched it, it does have a kind of British charm about it, for sure.
The film is based on a novel called White Light by William Scheinman which, it turns out, is almost impossible to get hold of at the moment for a price under high double figures... which is a shame because I’d really like to know how different this is from the movie. This cinema version of it highlights the trials and tribulations of Chris (played here by Peter Bramhill), a taxidriver who’s been going ‘off-piste’ a lot lately, driving around spots of London in his blind obsession to find this siren-like naked lady who appears out of the ether every now and again and who haunts both his dreams and his waking life. Here, The Goddess, as she is billed, is played by Carole Derrien, who plays the role silently but spends most of the movie wandering around in various states of undress and causing Chris to vomit, have sex and various other interesting things. The character switches/progresses from being an almost passive and reappearing sex phantom aspect of his obsessional life (such when she first appears naked and bald in his apartment, covered in blood and viscera and he has to bathe her clean), shifting to a much more dominant, aggressive and controlling power play dominatrix style later in the film. She was even, in her early sightings, the reason why Chris split up with his girlfriend Tessa (played by Lucy Liemann), it transpires.
Oh... and did I mention The Goddess is some kind of sinister, tentacle monster, intestine gouging, inter-dimensional police presence activated by Chris’ mind to make him face up to his childhood trauma by terrorising him and killing his friends? Well, yeah, that’s a huge part of this and... not going to say much more about the plot because it’s a fairly free-form movie, not because there’s no obvious structure (there is) but because the hallucinogenic nature of the imagery and the way it flows into the narrative without warning makes the film less about the story and more about the way you experience it. Also, I’m not sure why cutlery started magnetising itself to the walls of the main protagonists department when he performs cunnilingus on The Goddess, after she gives him a bizarrely soapy handjob so... I maybe didn’t pick up on all the intricate plot points properly.
Actually, I do have other questions like... why does Chris sleep with a blindfold on to cover his eyes but have the light in the bedroom on as he does so? This makes no sense. But I did applaud some nice things the film put in such as, something you rarely see in movies or real life these days... Chris driving his taxi while writing in his notebook which is balanced on the steering wheel so, yeah, little touches of observed reality like this help ground the movie and, considering the nature of the narrative, the film really does need a bit of grounding.
The other thing which grounds the movie is the budget. Don’t get me wrong, the director does a wonderful job with what he’s got and what he hasn’t got almost helps the film maintain a thin layer of grime to it that it might have not managed with more money. So, while you can see the influences of directors like David Cronenberg, for instance (especially Videodrome, I would say), it’s all accomplished with a kind of ‘make do and mend’ attitude which, as I said, doesn’t really hurt it much.
The film has its fill of things which are certainly not new but also not that common in films. For example, Chris has a ‘bent copper’ friend who likes to masturbate over the violent murder, crime scene photos he collects while on the job. There’s a scene where one of the characters vomits onto the camera lens. And there’s another scene, which can’t have been that easy to film (especially given the obvious lack of CGI in some sections), where the camera reveals, as it tracks down Carole Derrien’s naked body, that her pubic hair has been replaced by hundreds of writhing maggots (which I’m pretty sure are real). There’s even a splosh play scene which isn’t something you usually see in a commercially released movie these days (more of that kind of thing in the 1970s it seems to me).
The other thing to recommend this movie is that all the actors in the film are doing an absolutely first class job. Their naturalistic air and competence at handling some of the more ‘out there’ lines is another thing which helps anchor the movie... which is really crucial for this kind of thing, I would say. Admittedly, Christopher Fairbank is a little over the top in his delivery but I think that particular character is supposed to have a larger than life, intimidating presence so, yeah, he’s a joy to watch too.
The end of the film is... kinda harsh in the way it leaves certain characters (if I understood it correctly) and the very last shot has a little moment to remind the audience of the constant presence of the inter-dimensional beings in the universe who are always watching us but, yeah, it’s okay. Not sure where else they could have gone from here, to be honest.
So that’s me done on Mindflesh. A typical English affair which may be a little obvious in places (in terms of the main protagonist’s childhood trauma) but ultimately is an entertaining enough watch and, for a film like this, has a nice set of lengthy extras (including a director commentary track) which don’t usually make it onto discs for films like this. If you’re into low budget horror and want something to put on of an evening, then Mindflesh is probably worth a purchase, especially when the price tag on Amazon UK is still fairly cheap at present. I don’t regret grabbing this... I just wish I could find a cheap copy of the original novel at some point soon. The style of this also reminded me of the early 1980s body horror novels of Brian Lumley from when I was a kid and I wonder if the novel/film is similarly influenced by those, too. Maybe one day I’ll find out.