Movies · Reviews

If Nothing Else, The Mind’s Eye Is the Best Scanners Sequel We Never Got

By  · Published on September 27th, 2015

Read more of our Fantastic Fest 2015 coverage here.

David Cronenberg’s 1981 psychic thriller Scanners is remembered and held in high regard almost exclusively for its iconic exploding head scene, but people seem to forget that it’s also a dry, cold film with extremely uneven performances. It was followed by two sequels, neither of which are remembered for much of anything at all, but now writer/director Joe Begos has delivered a film that feels to its very core every bit the Scanners sequel we never got. Spectacular practical effects, a minimalist plot, and sketchy acting combine in the very bloody, occasionally fun, and constipation face-filled The Mind’s Eye.

Research into telepathic abilities has long been a minor focus at the CIA, but as 1990 comes to a close their work with a select group of telekinetics has seen results. Zack Connors (Graham Skipper) is wandering the countryside until an altercation with local police reveals his own mental powers. He’s subdued and transported to the mysteriously-named Slovak Institute of Telekinetics where he tentatively agrees to stay on and help with the research in exchange for the opportunity to see an old friend named Rachel Meadows (Lauren Ashley Carter). It was an empty promise though, and when Zack discovers what’s really happening at the institute he and Rachel make a run for freedom.

Begos presents his film with a dry pace and simple plot – good psychics are being pursued by bad psychics – and while the budgetary limitations keep the area of action very restrained there are still some fun head to head sequences. Fisticuffs ensue on occasion, but most confrontations quickly become mental battles that see characters staring intensely at each other, straining their faces as they try to will damage upon their opponent. It can’t help but look pretty silly at times, but the goofiness usually comes to an end when someone goes splat.

Those gooey moments are easily the highlight here, and while exploding heads are the money shots there’s plenty of non-cranial bodily damage too. Color shifts throughout the film as scenes are lit it in primary hues, and Steve Moore’s score also stands out with a propulsive electronic beat and a powerful use of bass.

Begos’ script does seem to struggle at times to stretch his simple setup to feature length, and it’s most evident in the back and forth during confrontations. There are repeated sequences where someone remembers too late that they can just fight with their mind only to scrunch their face up for a minute of intense concentration and then be hit by someone else from behind. Other filler includes an ill-advised montage of Zack and Rachel doing the old in ’n’ out while another character gets poked with a hypodermic needle containing questionable content – the sex turns what should have been an ominous scene into a laughable one.

Performances are a mixed bag with several of them seemingly paying tribute to Scanners’ Stephen Lack by failing to register anything resembling an emotion or tone. John Speredakos meanwhile occupies the other extreme by taking his role of the maniacal Dr. Slovak to bigger and bigger heights of scenery-chewing. Landing somewhere in the middle is a nice turn by Larry Fessenden as Zack’s father. It’s a small role, but he gives the man convincing weight. Fellow indie genre faces appear too including Noah Segan, Josh Ethier, and Jeremy Gardner (The Battery).

The Mind’s Eye is an unabashed homage that plays like Cronenberg’s Scanners meets John Carpenter’s synthesizer meets Dario Argento’s lighting designer. There’s wet fun to be had here, but it ultimately leaves little room for Begos.

The Upside: Some fun and gory psychic battles

The Downside: Barely there story; sketchy acting at times

Read more of our Fantastic Fest 2015 coverage here.

Rob Hunter has been writing for Film School Rejects since before you were born, which is weird seeing as he's so damn young. He's our Chief Film Critic and Associate Editor and lists 'Broadcast News' as his favorite film of all time. Feel free to say hi if you see him on Twitter @FakeRobHunter.