Man With A Scan
The Mind's Eye
Directed by Joe Begos
Channel 83 Films
Warning: Some spoilers.
The Mind’s Eye is, it has to be said, pretty much a sequel/continuation/copyright evading side step to David Cronenberg’s excellent Scanners (reviewed here). I mean, nobody mentions the term ‘scan’ but it’s pretty much ‘what might have happened next’ to certain characters or similar characters in those kinds of situations from the first movie. I hope writer/director Joe Begos doesn’t mind me saying that and I’m guessing that was his intention.
The film starts off directly in the way a lot of it is played out, with long held static shots of people moving through the frame... and a drifter, Zack, played by Graham Skipper. Indeed the film favours a lot of either static shots or locked down shots with a very slow zoom in or out for the meat and bones of the tale, it seemed to me. Occasionally switching to a hand held style in certain sections. The opening of the film reminded me a little of the start of the original First Blood (reviewed here), where Stallone’s drifter was ‘pushed’ by the local police. A similar thing happens here as Zack fights back and, though he’s not successful in escaping his antagonists in the scene, we are clued in that he has some serious psychokinetic abilities as he smashes the police car with his mind and tosses cops around mentally.
Captured, he is recruited by the sinister Dr. Slovak, played by John Speredakos, who wants him to be one of many psychokinetic ‘lab rats’ in his ‘research centre’, the Slovak Institute Of Psychokinetics, with the promise that he’ll be reunited with his lover, Rachel, played by Lauren Ashley Carter, who is an even more mentally powerful individual... who has been ‘volunteered’ to participate in the doctor’s research. Often their mental powers are inhibited by a drug injected directly into the back of the brain and, when he gets there, Zack spends six months or so being ill-treated and experimented on, including daily spinal extractions. After a while, Zack has had enough. With the help of another ‘patient’ he evades the guards, rescues Rachel and they go on the run. Meanwhile, Dr. Slovak, who has been receiving daily injections of the spinal fluid taken from the various psychics under his care so he can become an even more superhuman version of them, sends various people to pursue the two escapees, killing Zack’s father in the process. With Rachel rendered out of action and taken to a local hospital, Zack goes on the rampage and returns to the clinic to have a final reckoning with the now out of control, power mad doctor and his various bodyguards.
And, yeah, it’s not a bad little movie. There are some heavy leanings on Scanners such as the electronic style score, the grating musical effect when somebody is using their mental powers and the ferocious orgasm face theatrics of people thinking ‘really hard’, which very much follow the lead of the former Cronenberg film. It’s different territory in terms of the pacing and, I think for me, the slightly faster speed and the sheer amount of admittedly impressive and over the top gory ‘mind killing’ scenes were maybe a little too much. There are various objects such as knives, guns and axes wielded psychically to achieve many a bloody demise as well as the usual head explosions and an impressive moment where the top and bottom of a persons body are mentally pulled and thrown in opposite directions.
The problem I have with multiple scenes of this nature all piled on top of each other, though, is similar to the same kind of ‘weight of lethargy’ induced in me by multiple action scenes in various superhero movies these days... there’s not enough time to appreciate the art and theatricality of such shenanigans before you’re onto the next thing. Cronenberg tends to slow things down so that when each set piece arrives it feels more like an event being built towards a thing and, though I certainly found The Mind’s Eye entertaining for everything it is, I did feel a little ‘clubbed to death’ by all the flesh ripping and villanous posturing after a while.
But, having said that, I thought the film was still pretty great and, you know, not everyone can be Cronenberg (not even Cronenberg sometimes). The actors were all existing in a state of ‘over the top’ readiness for the most part but the intensity of their performances added another layer of interest to a film which might have fallen flat if handled badly. As it is, the director and actors know exactly what they’re doing here and have made an interesting and engaging film.
One other slight problem I had with it is that there’s not enough of Rachel’scharacter in it. She’s supposed to be the most powerful of the bunch of natural psychokinetics in the movie but, apart from bursting open a guys head with her mental powers after levitating him up a wall, we don’t see her do that much and I was hoping she would have some kind of involvement in the final showdown scene at the end of the movie.
Gluing it all together is Steve Moore’s amazing synthesiser based score. It starts off with more of a nod to Shore’s electronic Scanners score in tone but, by the end of the movie when things are really moving on... it goes into the same kind of territory as a really good John Carpenter score and it doesn’t let up. Much to my surprise and delight, I discovered that there was actually a CD pressing of the score so I’ve currently got a copy on order from someone in Germany so I can give it a good listen away from the film. Really looking forward to this one arriving actually.*
And there you have it. The Mind’s Eye is a Cronenbergian escape and chase romp with plenty of twisted flesh and mind searing action, if that’s your kind of thing. It definitely belongs to that subsection of sci-fi horror that Cronenberg kick started with his earlier classic but, where Cronenberg was probably a little bit like a slightly more visceral Canadian version of Philip K Dick, in terms of where his storytelling lands, The Mind’s Eye is more like an action movie equivalent of similar themes. And there’s certainly room for both approaches as far as I’m concerned. A fun one to check out, for sure.
*It did arrive and I have to say, it's an absolutely amazing
stand alone listen. The CD has had quite a few spins here already.