The Mind’s Eye, second feature film by Almost Human writer/director Joe Begos, is a substantial step forward from his low-key debut, which we reviewed three years ago at Toronto Film Festival. In those three years, Begos has developed considerably. Where Almost Human felt tacked together by its love, passion, and visual effects, The Mind’ Eye is a more fulfilled retro-venture with its feet planted firmly on the ground.
Graham Skipper returns as Begos’ leading man, playing Zack, a telekinetic fugitive persuaded into special care by Dr Slovak (John Speredakos, Wendigo, The House of the Devil), a man who runs a facility for people with special capabilities, and is currently treating Zack’s ex-girlfriend (Lauren Ashley Carter – Jug Face, Pod). Begos swaps Carpenter for Cronenberg, drawing on The Brood and Scanners for a film that glowers lovingly at its roots, pondering what makes those films so great whilst delivering a blatantly fun sci-fi thriller.
Begos has developed his talents considerably since Almost Human, as writer, director, and cinematographer. Begos has a keen eye for image, and an excellent approach to lighting, his passion for the genre translated into a nostalgic jigsaw of increasingly dreamlike moments bathed in evocative colours. The writing is better paced too, developing an array of mad bad characters for his excellent cast to inhabit. And there’s a great cast here. Noah Segan (Looper, Starry Eyes) and Michael A. LoCicero (Erebus, Almost Human) join a scenery chewing Speredakos to form the ultimate B-movie baddies, whilst genre legend Larry Fessenden turns up as Zack’s lovable dad.
The Mind’s Eye thankfully continues Begos’ appreciation for practical effects, dodging the compromising digital replacements with apparent disgust. The effects, like the cinematography, dialogue, and action, are so gleefully engineered to be outrageous stupendous fun, whilst also packing the punch of a gasp-worthy shock. Heads are exploded, people are torn apart, objects are hurled, and Begos knows that we will chow it all down because it’s such an easy ride to enjoy. There is nothing more pleasing than well-executed, shamelessly foul, gore. Pete Gerner and Brian Spears, who worked on I Sell the Dead, Stake Land, We Are What We Are, and Cold in July, lend their veritable talents to Begos’ amateur charm resulting in Indy horror gold. Similarly, Begos sophomore feature benefits greatly from a more developed soundtrack by The Guest and Cub composer Steve Moore, who channels many of Begos’ 70’s influences directly to the screen.
This feels like a far bolder announcement than Begos debut, a film that proves he has more than love and amateur charm on his side. Skipper makes an endearing lead whilst Speredakos steals the show with an intense, yet enjoyably camp, villain. The Mind’s Eye is honestly a total triumph of underdog cinema, an espresso of genre ideals, and a heart-warmingly impressive second feature.
Dir: Joe Begos
Stars: Graham Skipper, Lauren Ashley Carter, John Speredakos, Larry Fessenden