RECOMMENDED AS WEIRD: MINDFLESH (2008)

DIRECTED BY: Robert Pratten

FEATURING: Peter Bramhill, Carole Derrien, Christopher Fairbank, Roy Borrett, Steven Burrell, Isabella Jade Fane, Lucy Liemann, Clare Routh

PLOT: A troubled man with a dark secret unwittingly summons an alien nymphomaniac from another dimension; she just may represent a race of gods who are none too happy about her latest tryst.

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WHY IT SHOULD MAKE THE LIST: Mindflesh features a plethora of the foreign and the grotesque. From its lurid, bizarre story about sex with aliens to its colorful visual effects, Mindflesh is sure to please fans of the weird.

COMMENTS: Wow! Mindflesh threw me for a loop and really knocked me back in my seat! Discovering a prize like this in a media slurry of mainstream mediocrity is like running across the fabled Star of India in a trash heap.

Slick and fresh, Mindflesh is a bizarre horror yarn about sexual obsession, body disassociation, and morbid metamorphoses. Independent writer/director Robert Patten outdoes himself, making an extreme departure from his first feature length effort, London Voodoo. Mindflesh is a surreal shocker. It’s sexy, grotesque, and provocative. It’s a crazy, jarring ride through alternative consciousness, through the chilling, the macabre, the uncanny, and the wantonly perverse. Patten has accomplished the nearly impossible task of visually translating William Scheinman’s quirky, metaphysical novel “White Light” to the screen in a sensible manner, replete with all of its dreamlike nuances, foreboding atmosphere, and otherworldly Ick! factor.

What transpires in Mindflesh isn’t presented via corny, over-simplified exposition, yet we achieve an intuitive grasp of the phenomena that unfolds. The result is a movie that challenges us with its imaginative concepts, yet is not hard to understand.

Chris (Peter Bramhill) lives after dark: quiet, solitary, driving a mini-cab through the swirling night fog along the damp asphalt traverses of nighttime London. Dimmed neon signs, empty boulevards, abandoned parking lots; the lonely, sleeping city is his domain. The distracted soundtrack to his nocturnal patrols issues from his cab: a mottled, perpetual backdrop of scratchy dispatch messages, police reports, weather bulletins, and static. It’s a world alien to that which most of us are accustomed.

Chris finds out just how alien it can be.

He may have some special sensitivity. Chris is haunted by murky half-memories of something awful from years ago. Increasingly, he suffers from terrifying dreams and hallucinations. He learns from a book, that trauma warps our plane of existence, creating holes in the fabric of space time through which various phenomena cross between parallel worlds.

Suppressed angst, wistfulness, and loneliness radiate from Chris like an aura. By chance, it catches the notice of an enigmatic stranger with a similar perceptive gift.

During his travels through the urban twilight, in shadows, out of the corner of his eye, in his rear-view mirrors—is it a trick of the light?—Chris gets mysterious glimpses of an apparition, a woman (Carole Derrien), solitary, resolute, watching him.

Her appearance is accompanied by electromagnetic disturbances. His automobile compass spins wildly. Radio transmissions warp and undulate, becoming unintelligible. When Chris approaches the mystery woman, she vanishes into a smoke trail, shimmering out of sight in a spiral of mist.

Chris desires her absolutely. An inter-planar transcendence takes place. The woman achieves a physical manifestation, acquiring form out of thin air. Has Chris willed her into this world, or has she willed herself here, entwining with our plane of existence in order to entwine with Chris?

She flickers in and out of earthly reality, until, in an example of Pygmalionism gone utterly awry, she materializes from the skeleton up. Organs fill in the gaps, skin follows. Slick with lymph and blood, basking in the presence of Chris’s humanity, she finalizes like a caterpillar transforming in the chrysalis.

She is a quantum Goddess: sex incarnate, saturated, oozing, seething with desire. She and Chris engage in a ghastly, slimy, ethereal coupling, an obscene union of heaving, illicit, inter-species sex. In her amorous frenzy, the Goddess trashes Chris’s apartment, seducing him tirelessly, repeatedly, transforming him into a quivering lump of catatonia. She pulls him into her alien universe and he undergoes a bodily transformation into her peculiar native anatomy.

Problematically, some very frightful aliens make the scene. They have heavy grievances about Goddess leaving her plane for the earthly realm. They’re willing to do some very nasty things to get her back!

Chris is burdened with the job of returning her, and sheer hell awaits him if he falters. To achieve his salvation, Chris must discover how the Goddess is linked to a sinister episode in his deliberately obfuscated past.

But how?

Mindflesh is colorful and wonderfully twisted. Arban Ornelas’s score reinforces its vivid imagery and seamlessly blends the film’s segues. Patten’s striking cinematic technique is captivating and compelling. His transitions between scenes, the way he melds flashbacks, dreams, and hallucinatory experiences artfully conveys their meaning in a manner that’s concise and logically accessible to the audience.

Mindflesh is almost a perfect horror film. It just misses the bullseye. Chris’s Achilles heel is right out of a famous Greek tragedy. The effect is melodramatic. More surprisingly, in the otherwise sound screenplay, there are a couple of easily avoidable logical flaws which occur later in the story. We try to overlook these incongruities because they pale in comparison to the movie’s sensationally striking visual and imaginative elements. For a horror movie, Mindflesh is in the top tier, sporting visual effects and horror styling reminiscent of Altered States, Videodrome, Hellraiser, Possession (1981), Species, and Splice.

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“…this movie is one of those rare breeds: a unique creation.”–Zev Toledano, The Worldwide Celluloid Massacre

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