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Review: TIFF 2015: ‘The Mind’s Eye’ is a throwback made with love (Includes interview and first-hand account)

In fiction and non-fiction narratives alike, people have typically had one of two reactions to those that are different: ostracization and eradication, or envy and appropriation. While the former response can be seen through history, the latter is more often associated with science fiction and fantasy tales in which diversity comes in the form of superhuman abilities. In many cases, fear is connected to one’s incapacity to match their counterpart’s power. Thus, creating an equal playing field is the only means of salvaging peace. In The Mind’s Eye, one doctor’s efforts focus on people with telekinesis.

Zack (Graham Skipper) has been on the run for years, avoiding the faceless enemy that threatens to capture those with special abilities. But when his girlfriend, Rachel (Lauren Ashley Carter), disappears, he’s forced to infiltrate the Institute for Telekinesis by agreeing to be one of its subjects. However, in spite of Dr. Slovak’s (John Speredakos) reassurance that everything is all right and he just wants to help, the experiments he conducts indicate otherwise. Moreover, after months of confinement, Zack has yet to be allowed to see Rachel. Tired of being treated like a lab rat, Zack leads a small uprising in an effort to escape Slovak’s control. However, the consequences of his revolt are swift and severe.

The motto for most visual mediums is typically “show, don’t tell.” However, the horror genre is one of the few exceptions in which doing the opposite can be just as effective. Writer/director Joe Begos flawlessly incorporates some of the worst transgressions at the Institute into verbal exchanges between the characters. “I wanted there to be some idea of what was going on there, but by just talking about it the driving force of the movie would be these three people orbiting around each other,” he explains. Combined with camera angles that obscure certain procedures and adequate practical effects in the second half of the movie, the viewer is drawn in by the story rather than the spectacle.

Like Begos’ first picture, which was obviously inspired by John Carpenter’s The Thing and Ridley Scott’s Alien, the filmmaker once again find’s his influence in a classic sci-fi film, Scanners. There are numerous similarities between this movie and the David Cronenberg masterpiece, but they’re not necessarily intentional. “My entire childhood was spent watching this stuff, so it’s sort of permanently engrained in my brain,” says Begos. “So when I come up with an idea, it organically comes from [those movies]. There’s no way around it.” He also set the film in 1990 to achieve a similar timelessness to some of his favourite pictures, such as Pet Semetary.

Begos brings back several actors from his feature debut to star in his sophomore outing and adds some other familiar faces, including Jeremy Gardner of zombie indie fave, The Battery. While Begos specifically wrote the role of Zack for his previous leading man, Skipper, he also wanted to cast actors who were well-known for their talents in the genre. Thus he approached Larry Fessenden, Noah Segan and Gardner, who all bring noteworthy experiences to the table, for parts he envisioned them in during the creative process. “And now I have a bigger group of actors for whom I can just write stuff for,” says Begos.

The filmmaker was also able to collaborate with his first-choice for composer on the score, Steve Moore, who has worked on recent thrillers, Cub and The Guest. “There aren’t a lot of really heavy action movies with a synth-based score,” says Begos. Thus, they took some of their cues from James Cameron’s The Terminator to create a brooding atmosphere that would be authentic to the narrative. “I’m really happy about how it turned out,” he adds.

Rather than simply pilfering from classic genre movies, Begos produces an homage to his beloved sci-fi and horror influences — with a dash more splatter. The film had its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival. Don’t miss the rest of our TIFF 2015 coverage.

Director: Joe Begos
Starring: Graham Skipper, Lauren Ashley Carter and John Speredakos

Written By

Sarah Gopaul is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for film news, a member of the Online Film Critics Society and a Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer-approved critic.

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