I wish this movie had lived up to all the hype I heard this past summer. The “curse of the cult classics” I’m going to refer to it as. I have yet to see a remake of an 80s cult classic done in the 21st century that manages to at least live up to the original. I know this isn’t a remake, but to me a homage and a direct remake are flip sides of the same coin. Joe Begos didn’t remake Scanners (1981), he just flipped the coin and honored it with his own characters and story, which in and of itself is notable because you don’t typically run across homages/remakes to a David Cronenberg movie.
If you say Scanners to me, two things come immediately to mind: the head explosion early in the movie, and the telekinetic battle at the very end. When I first saw Scanners and that head explosion I thought, Jesus, and this is just the beginning. By the time that ending confrontation comes between Cameron (Stephen Lack) and Revok (Michael Ironside), director Cronenberg actually managed to top that early head blow with a psychic fight that warped flesh and had very weird implications. Revok at one point tells Cameron, “I’m going to suck you dry!” Dear God, what did that mean? And that ending when Kim (Jennifer O’Neil) finds a desiccated/burnt body with a still living Revok proclaiming he’s Cameron and they’ve won . . . I remembers thinking of psychic vampirism at the time. Did Revok actually “suck” Cameron’s life out? Was that why that corpse looked so fucked up? Did Cameron possess Revok?
Scanners is a unique concept that had the fortunate luck to find an equally unique director to bring it to life, and if you’re a Cronenberg fan you already know how “unique” that man is when it comes to realizing bizarre shit on screen, which means if you’re planning to either remake or homage one of his celluloid creations you better be able to bring your ideas at least up to chin level on his bar. Actually, this goes for any filmmaker who intends to use the cult classic of any one of our famed 70/80s directors as inspiration for their own movie. Given all this you can see now how I had built up The Mind’s Eye in my head between the time I first heard of Joe Begos to last night when I finally saw it. It just didn’t have that level of Cronenberg weirdness I thought it was going to have. It shows signs of it with the injections the movie’s main villain is taking in hopes to replicate the telekinetic abilities of the subjects he’s imprisoned; the weird “From Beyond-ish” throb at the back of the neck at the infected injection site, which did indeed have me thinking of a throbbing pineal gland about to break forth from some unlucky dude’s forehead, not to mention the veins branching out from it along his face, but it never gets more explored than what I just mentioned. Plus the telekinetic fights lack that body warping. In The Mind’s Eye the telekinetics simply gush blood from their ears, mouth and nose. Though in the more mild encounters the blood dripping from the nose brought to ming The Fury (1978), the second greatest movie ever made about telekinetic horror, as did that huge body explosion at the end.
It’s hard to tell if this was Begos’ original vision or whether he had something more in mind but couldn’t because of the budget. I do seem to think if he had a 16-million or higher budget The Mind’s Eye would be a very different flick, so it might be that what I had in my own head was simply a movie beyond his financial range. Or I may have just been expecting too much of him. He’s not Cronenberg, so it would be impossible for him to deliver something only Cronenberg could.
The only character I could sympathize with was the female lead, Rachel Meadows (Lauren Ashley Carter), since Carter so expertly brought her to life in just the right way. Unfortunately, her part was small, and I understand that since Zack Connors (Graham Skipper) is the character the movie focuses on and naturally follows through to the end. On the plus side, Rachel does live to see another day by the time it’s all over; can’t say that about any of the others. Oh, wait, the nurse! As far as I could tell Slovak’s nurse lives too.
I also had a problem with guns being pulled on characters who then hesitate long enough for someone to get the drop on them. What’s that rule with guns? Don’t pull one unless you intend to use it. The most painful example of this was when Rachel has the opportunity to end Dr. Michael Slovak’s (John Speredakos) life, but hesitates long enough for Zack to psychically push her hand off target. Why would someone who’s been that “medically tortured” even hesitate for a nanosecond to kill the very cause of that torture?
Speaking of our main villain, I know Speredakos is a good actor, I’ve seen him in various movies, and he starts out menacing at the appropriate levels, but when he finally starts going off the deep end, his acting takes a left turn into what I can only describe as “generic comic book villain.” the kind bent on “world domination” and chews the scenery way too much. It didn’t really match the grim tone unfolding around him.
What I did like was that the story is a period piece, not as period as Scanners, but taking place in the early 90s. It’s also winter specific. You don’t see a lot of movies taking place in the heart of winter. That was also refreshing. And staying true to the period aesthetic all the effects were in-camera, even the blood. I cannot tell you how much I hate seeing CGI blood. The Mind’s Eye even has a requisite head explosion. As a whole it’s a pretty bloody movie when the shit starts to hit the fan. Gore hounds shouldn’t be disappointed.
In the world of The Mind’s Eye there are individuals who have telekinetic powers the government has decided they want to weaponize, thus springs up various facilities like the one Dr. Slovak owns where these people are captured, housed and experimented on. Slovak’s specific goal is to see if he can genetically transfer their abilities to his own body, and this expectedly entails a lot of painful medical tortures that Meadows takes the brunt of. He succeeds too. But with it comes a biological price I previously mentioned. In Slovak’s employ are various goons he uses to guard his facility, keep his subjects under control and to do is general bidding.
It’s not clear how (or when) Zack knows Rachel, they just do, and he’s been looking for her for some time, only realizing Slovak has her when he’s arrested by cops on Slovak’s take and introduced directly to the “mad doctor.”
Just like the drug ephemerol in Scanners that keeps the worst of the Scanner effects suppressed, while allowing the Scanner to develop and use his ability without insanity taking hold, The Mind’s Eye has a similar drug, but it doesn’t have a cool, memorable name, and all it does is suppress the telekinetic abilities. Come to think of it the telekinetics in the movie don’t have a cool Scanner-like moniker either. Mindblowers would have been a good one.
The bloodshed starts when Zack and Rachel escape and continues when Slovak sends his goons out to get them back. Once that results in the death of Zack’s equally telekinetic father (Larry Fessenden) though, the urge to permanently escape turns to revenge and more bloodshed ensues when Zack heads back to the facility to take everyone out. The movie remains open (in a way) for the prospects of a sequel and I wouldn’t mind seeing where Begos could take a Mind’s Eye trilogy if he did venture back into this mythos.
I will say it’s at least infinitely better than Scanners III: The Takeover (1991). Dear God, I loathe that sequel. I’m cool with The New Order, at least they connected that one to Cronenberg’s flick, but The Takeover? Forget it. Worst. Scanners Sequel. Ever.
(Reverse cover in the middle)
Video/Audio/Subtitles: 1080p 2.35:1 high definition widescreen—5.1 English DTS-HD Master Audio—English SDH, Spanish subs only.
Extras included . . .
- A Look Into the Eye of Madness Featurette (28:02)
- Commentary with Writer/Director Joe Begos
- Producer’s Commentary featuring Joe Begos, Josh Ethier, Graham Skipper and Zak Zeman
- Poster Gallery (2 posters)
In an interview I read with Begos a few months ago his dream project is to do an animatronic werewolf movie, but he knows he can’t do that on a meager budget. Personally I’d like to see him realize that dream. Even though I was underwhelmed by his Scanners homage it’s clear he loves 80s horror flicks and if he could ever get the needed funds to homage An American Werewolf In London (1981) and The Howling (1981) (two of the best werewolf movies ever made, and still not topped) I would gladly be there with bells on to review it!