Mindflesh (2011)

Cab driver Chris is having strange visions. He keeps seeing a woman everywhere he goes – an ethereal, haunting image that enthralls and disturbs him. His friends think he’s crazy, his boss is frustrated, his girlfriend’s left him and he’s becoming obsessed. But when this woman becomes manifest and begins to seduce him, Chris realizes something is dangerously wrong with her and he unleashes something he cannot possibly control. Welcome to Robert Pratten’s Mindflesh.

The walls magnetize, computers melt, his friends start dying and Christopher Fairbank gets very very angry. It’s an insane ride that is confused, intriguing and surprisingly good. It is unlikely you’ll have seen anything quite like it or will again.

At the heart of Mindflesh lies a compelling and interesting idea – we live tenuous existences, gliding alongside many planes of existence. These planes are policed by The Guardians, who will aggressively stop anyone attempting to break these thin, mystical barriers that sew the planes together. But what happens when someone breaks a barrier by accident; when their fractured Will produces something manifest on the Human plane… something that does not belong?

Sadly Mindflesh fails to utilize this idea to its fullest extent. We’re not imbued with this useful information until two thirds of the way through the film, and although the build up and mind-bending confusion is interesting it would’ve benefitted by having a clearer through-line from the start. Perhaps this is a naïve suggestion, considering the film’s purpose and themes are not meant to be clear or simple. It is so unlike anything Hollywood would dare to produce it is genuinely difficult to compare or contrast.

Mindflesh does have touches of early David Cronenberg to it, with slightly-sexualized body-horror mixed with stylized lighting and sound. It’s hypnotizing in places, and oddly alluring. Similar to Cronenberg’s Rabid and Shivers, Mindflesh it is not sordid or pornographic, but created with a deranged elegance that disturbs as much as it intrigues. This is due to the haunting performance by Carole Derrien as “the Goddess”; she moves with subtle grace throughout, giving an otherworldly feel that is both captivating and dangerous.

Chris the cabbie (Peter Bramhill) is warned that his flirtations with this Goddess are angering The Guardians, but he cannot stop seeing her – wanting her. Is this his fault or the work of something else? Or is it all happening because of some horrific incident in his past that he is buried deep in his psyche? As his passion for the Goddess escalates, The Guardians try to stop him by attacking everything he loves on the Human plane. As his friends start to die Chris realizes he must end this mystical relationship… but this proves to be incredibly difficult.

Mindflesh is a film that is excellent overall but has some serious problems throughout. The script can be perfunctory at times, with everyday chat seeming false and bored, whilst the more exciting and interesting moments are melodramatic and overwritten – “Not just eye candy, but mind candy”. Some elements seem needlessly depraved, like bent cop Slade’s penchant for masturbating over crime scene photos. It adds to an uneasy sickness that seems to bubble in the background of the movie but never quite appears, perhaps thankfully so.

The acting throughout is a mixture of competent and excellent, with some believable turns from Cordelia Bugeja, Lucy Lieman and Steven Burrell. An angry cameo from Christopher Fairbank provides most of the exposition in one scene, although this is done smartly enough to not appear trite or convoluted. Peter Bramhill plays Chris perfectly, with a haunted sense of weakness and loss, making him an excellent everyman protagonist.

For those who prefer their horror films fast, furious, brutal and bloody, Mindflesh might be a difficult sell as it’s slow-burning, bizarre, surreal and baffling in places. Some parts could do with expansion or re-editing, with some unsettling moments throughout that defy explanation, but it’s a mind-bending watch.

It is astoundingly well done for an independent film and a fine piece of work from director / writer Robert Pratton. His previous work London Voodoo is also a sexualized, intriguing creation, and hopefully he will continue to create these compelling oddities in the future rather than sacrifice his distinct visions for the allure of Hollywood-esque fame and fortune.

Featuring magnetic walls, stomach nipples, rape and madness, Mindflesh is genuinely disconcerting at times and simply unbearably strange at others. It’s not horrific or obscene, but highly bizarre and oddly watchable. Not for everyone’s taste but certainly an amazing production, Mindflesh deserves to be seen.

Rating: ★★★★★★½☆☆☆

One Comment on “Mindflesh”

  1. Phil says:

    I’ve been meaning to watch this. One of my lecturers from uni put me onto it a while back…I’m not sure whether he met Robert Pratten or something. Hopefully the download link I was sent still works…

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