‘This film should be played loud,’ runs an opening caption – quoting The Driller Killer – for a film that manages to be a perfect pastiche of the telekinetic horror movies of the ‘70s and ‘80s, down to the old-school exploding head effects, the ominous electronic score, the twitchy paranoia and a Cronenbergish snowbound science retreat setting. Set in 1990, it owes a great debt to Cronenberg’s Scanners – it could almost fit into the authorised franchise of Scanners sequels – in its vision of paranormal powers, in the broad strokes of its plot (with many psychokinetic-on-psychokinetic duel) and in the icky results of too much messing with men’s minds.
Zack Connors (Graham Skipper), a fugitive telekinetic, is persuaded by Dr Michael Slovak (John Speredakos) to turn himself over into his custody because Slovak has supposedly treated Zach’s girlfriend Rachel Meadows (Lauren Ashley Carter,from Jugface and Pod) for her out-of-control powers. However, at Slovak’s remote institite, Zach is kept away from Rachel, dosed with drugs that suppress his abilities and strong-armed by a staff who keep more mercenary thugs than concerned medical professionals on the payroll. It becomes apparent that Slovak’s real agenda is to gain supernormal powers by dosing himself with a serum derived from spinal fluid harvested from his charges, though this is causing a gruesome rash to spread over his body and also nudging him into megalomania. Zack and Rachel make a break for it, heading for Zach’s estranged ex-cop father (Larry Fessenden), and Slovak sends his goons after them.
It’s not an especially complicated plot, though it has a few solid turns – Fessenden gets his missing tooth knocked out again, but then rounds on his attacker with his own unadvertised mental abilities – and a satisfyingly high body count, with telekinetic deaths involving forced suicide, spun axes, furniture, drops from a great height and the old favourite exploding heads. The climax, naturally, is a big duel between Zach and Slovak that features much face-pulling and thrumming noise before the big finisher. Writer-director Joe Begos (Almost Human) works again with characters uncomfortably learning to trust (and distrust) each other, bringing an indie sensibility to straight-ahead genre material.