Isabella Jade Fane
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17th Feb 08
Chris Jackson (Peter Bramhill from Human Traffic) is a London cab driver whose life could politely be described as rather mundane. The only thing of interest that happens to him is that he keeps spotting the same woman (Carole Derrien) on his travels. So intrigued is he by this mystery woman Chris takes to logging his sightings on a map, leading the few friends that he does have to consider him a little crazy.
Unsure if she is a figment of his imagination Chris soon finds himself being assaulted by alien beings as well as a conduit for obsessions to pass from the mind to the physical world. In order to bring an end to these events Chris must face up to a trauma from his past before his small circle of friends are destroyed by the aliens.
Writer / director Robert Pratten first made his mark on the horror genre with festival favourite London Voodoo (2004). He gave a familiar premise a fresh spin and whilst not completely successfully - it loses its footing towards the end - there was enough promise evident to mark him as a name to watch. Rather than stick to a formula, as most horror movie makers do, Pratten has changed direction with his second feature, moving away from voodoo and the supernatural and towards a genre that acclaimed director David Cronenberg left hanging to go making movies with Viggo Mortensen - body horror.
A big fan of writer William Scheinmann's short stories, Pratten was all too keen to get his hands on the writer's 'Buddhist horror novel' White Night and found himself not disappointed. He decided to option it straight away. Pratten adapted the story, re-titling it to MindFlesh and changing the location from San Francisco to London. Released through Pratten's Zen Films, whose motto is to produce movies that are 'entertaining, thought-provoking and irreverent,' the movie's trailer caused a bit of a fuss on the internet, being banned from both Facebook and YouTube due to its nudity content.
Nudity in movies always causes a bit of a fuss. It has always been perfectly acceptable to show people being shot, stabbed, whatever but just don't think of having naked flesh parading around in your movie. It raises the censor’s shackles and outrages people - rather odd when you consider that it's just people in their most natural state. The movie's nakedness is never sensationalistic and much like Cronenberg’s treatment of the same, the camera worships the flesh rather than exploits it.
Pratten is clever enough not to play his cards too early with the plot, keeping the viewer hooked throughout. MindFlesh has a dreamlike quality with little in the way of dialogue to move things along outside of the odd bit of exposition. Pratten is proving to be a unique voice in today's horror climate, and as he did with London Voodoo, is doing something that isn’t currently in vogue. It isn’t a remake, a re-imagining, or torture porn. Pratten takes familiar genre strands and does his own thing with them and by his own admission has come up with something far more adventurous than his first feature.
MindFlesh is a complete mind fuck that is not afraid to take the viewer to some unexpected places with a sudden peek of a middle aged woman's privates proving an unexpected shock, just one of a number of striking images. Complimented by an excellent score courtesy of Arban Severin, whose partner Steven (founder member of Siouxse and the Banshees) provided the score for London Voodoo, the overall experience is kind of trippy and surreal.
Given how reliant the movie is upon visual effects, it is pleasing to report that they are of an acceptable standard. The aliens, a kind of an amalgamation between a severed human head and a developing cow's udder, took the effects team three months to create. Electing to go with prosthetics the monster feels more palpable, more real than it would have done had Pratten preferred the CGI route.
The most recognisable member of the cast is Christopher Fairbank whose wealth of experience in TV and movies - such as Batman, The Fifth Element and Alien 3, rather than Aliens as the marketing blurb states – that stands him in good stance for shouting out explanatory dialogue to the lead character and the audience so we can keep up with what's going on.
Elsewhere the cast play second fiddle to the effects and the mood created. That is not to say that they are lifeless or are badly acted, it's just not the sort of film where a level of performance is applicable. MindFlesh is deliberately limited in dialogue allowing the visuals and the atmosphere to carry the film to its resolution with the cast merely ciphers in its sensual web.
With its art-house vibe and Facebook / You Tube upsetting nudity MindFlesh will not be for all tastes but for those with a penchant for something different to the present horror status quo this is one to delve into and delve into again.