MindFlesh (2008)

DVD Cover (Zen Films)
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Overall Rating 34%
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Ranked #7,443
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Peter Bramhill
Peter Bramhill
Carole Derrien
Carole Derrien
Christopher Fairbank
Christopher Fairbank
Roy Borrett
Roy Borrett
Sa Ra Garvey
Sa Ra Garvey
Review by Chad
Added: October 21, 2008
I've always had a sort of love / hate relationship with surrealist films (avant-garde, arthouse, call them what you will), because on the one hand, I really enjoy seeing these bizarre storylines come to life courtesy of some even more bizarre imagery and events. On the other hand, it seems that most filmmakers these days are taking this idea too far, and instead of giving us great movies that require a little thought, they give us completely random bullshit and insist that there's a statement to be made. You want to give us symbolism and metaphors? That's great, just make sure that there's a story in there. Shooting the Empire State Building for twelve hours does not make a movie, regardless of what the filmmakers claim that it meant, and this is the sort of thing that turns me off to these types of films: filmmakers who just don't give a shit about their audience.

When the guy responsible for MindFlesh contacted me about his film, I read the synopsis and came away completely confused. Then, I went ahead and watched the trailer, and before said trailer had even finished, I closed it out and told him that I'd love to watch and review it. I still had no idea what exactly it was that he was attempting to express with his film and I had no idea what it was about, but the imagery in that trailer proved that this could be something great. It was.

So, the storyline goes a little something like this: Chris (Peter Bramhill), a failed writer who has turned to driving a taxi to make ends meet, has started coming across a woman (Carole Derrien) who will appear for a few seconds before vanishing into thin air. This happens on an almost nightly basis and in random spots across the city, and finding out who she is becomes an obsession for our hero. Then, she shows up in his house, they make love, and strange marks start popping up on his body. Oh, and he also discovers that she has some sort of a connection with extraterrestrial beings, and he also finds that she may not even be real in the typical sense of the word. The line between reality and hallucination soon becomes blurred, and Chris must eventually face a childhood trauma or risk losing everything to this... woman.

There's more to the storyline and more is explained as you get through the running time, but I really don't want to spoil any more than I already have. Suffice it to say that this film deals with some bizarre theories and features some twists that will make you question your very existence, but while reveling in its own weirdness, the film is completely coherent and tells a story that the audience can get sucked into. Sure, there are certain pieces of the story that are left unexplained when all is said and done, but this is the point that I was making up there in that first paragraph: as a filmmaker producing this kind of work, you can leave it up to the audience to figure out the true meaning to a certain extent, just so long as there's enough material there for us to work with. MindFlesh gives us everything that we need to enjoy the seventy minutes in front of the tube while seeing what the writer was attempting to convey, but at the same time, it leaves a few pieces for us to dwell upon after the credits have rolled. That, my dear readers, is what the genre is all about.

As I sat through the film, I was reminded time and time again of the work of David Cronenberg. This is not to say that writer / director Robert Pratten (or William Scheinman, the writer of the novel upon which the film was based) was attempting to "rip off" Cronenberg's style, but there are some definite connections there. The body and the mind of the leading man play a huge part in the storyline, almost enough to be considered a secondary character, and of course, you've also got the "What is reality?" question lingering in the air as the story is told. Let's not forget the underlying - and oftentimes blatant - sexual tension that develops between the leading characters. Again, I wouldn't say that Cronenberg was ripped off in this film, but fans of his work will definitely enjoy this bizarre little release.

Making this deal even sweeter is the fact that even though this is an indie flick that hasn't been picked up for distribution just yet (though you can purchase it from the official site), the film completely defies its indie roots. I usually give a little leeway in regards to the acting turned in for indie flicks, but here, I didn't have to as everybody is perfect in their roles. I often turn a blind eye to sketchy effects or "fake" gore sequences, but again, I didn't have to: the creature effects are beautiful, and the gore is something that fans of the red stuff will love. It may not have had a million-dollar budget, but you won't notice while watching the film.

There's so much more to this film that I'd like to give my two cents on, but as I mentioned, I really don't want to spoil anything: discussing the overall meaning would require me to give away a big piece of the storyline, while talking about any of the theories that are explored in the film would force me to give away another major plot point. What I can say is that I enjoyed the hell out of the overall film, as I found that it mixed science fiction, horror, and surrealism together beautifully while telling a highly-original story and giving us plenty of "What the fuck?!" moments. If you enjoy horror, sci-fi, thrillers, bizarre imagery, creative storytelling, and / or the work of David Cronenberg, picking this one up should be a no-brainer. Easy 10/10.
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