The trailer for Mindflesh describes itself as a film which “Balances delight & disgust… Exposes the shadowy aspects of human souls.” If you’re the type of person who needs to be told how to perceive a film before you’ve watched it, then the succession of statements cranking the film up to the rafters will be very beneficial to you. Unfortunately, I am not one of those people.
I did some research before watching the movie and found that it is co-written by the same person who wrote the novel it was based on, entitled White Light, which appears to be self-published. As a book lover who firmly believes publishers and literary agents are completely necessary to ensure the quality of literature – and shouldn’t be considered hurdles to avoid – I needed to wind my neck in to give this film a fair chance. Sadly, my fears were realised – but not as Pratten and Scheinman intended.
Whilst the picture, sound and overall production quality were pretty decent, the actual film content was rather poor. The story concentrates on taxi driver Chris, who succumbs to visceral hallucinations involving his dream woman, whilst battling to overcome a childhood trauma. As the main character and ‘vessel’ for suppressed obsessions – which leak into the lives of his friends in various gross forms – a clear, significant character arc is absolutely vital. Yet from start to finish, Chris stays the same. He begins in a poor state, goes through some weird hallucinations involving strawberry syrup and cream, causes his friend’s death – which he apparently never learns of – and ends up posting his novel to a literary agent.
Where’s the progression, I ask? If he was psychologically impaired to begin with, then wouldn’t these traumas have caused a dramatic change, or left some sort of mark? With the cat-nipple-growths (yes, seriously) aside, I’d say apparently not. If a few meetings in the street with a random, babbling philosopher and a food fight with what appears to be the lead from Chicago was all it took to overcome the aftermath of child abuse, then the self-help book industry would’ve gone bust long ago. Mindflesh, according to its own description, is supposed to be some sort of psycho-sexual commentary infusing Buddhism with visceral horror, crossing countless genres. Actually, it’s a series of pornography with very minor, unresolved subplots and some two-dimensional symbolism.
Long gone are the days when such films could become cult classics; like Hellraiser, for example, which it did remind me of in parts. We can’t blame 1980s’ special effects – though they are the foundations of today’s technology – in 2011. Hellraiser was based off an amazing novelette by Clive Barker which, aside from all its other infinitely superior qualities, had multiple layers, as opposed to this film adaptation’s grand total of one. Oh, attempts are made, but they just aren’t good enough. They are lazy.
Assuming Barker’s work or the resulting movies did have any influence over this piece, I can appreciate it as an amateur’s humble tribute at most. However, I’ve a nagging feeling that this film wasn’t inspired by anything more than some pseudo-intellectual concepts from a deservedly unrecognised book, and therein lies the shame of it.
This movie lacks direction and resolve, using too many overused horror conventions – like maggots and snuff-horror, for example – to come anywhere near a serious conclusion about sex in psychology, let alone ask questions to start with. The conflicts are unclear and the overall purpose of the text seems confused and undeveloped. Apparently this is enough to win the film an award for best horror at a festival, so each to their own I guess. Maybe the entrants were all pretty crap that year; I dread to think what the runner-up films consisted of.
One good thing I can say about this movie is that its actors were pretty competent on the whole, particularly the lead roles. There aren’t any award-winning performances given, but I’ll award them kudos for their willingness to participate in a film which will undoubtedly be the most embarrassing contribution to their careers to date, and one they’ll be face-palming over in years to come. I wouldn’t be surprised if they were face-palming in the cab home after every gruelling day’s filming; I know I would have.