Hypnotic – review

Brief synopsis: Reeling from the trauma of stillbirth and the breakup of a long term relationship, a woman finds her life spiralling into depression. She is convinced by her best friend to see a hypnotherapist. Initially, the sessions yield good results. Then strange things start happening. 

Is it any good?: Hypnotic begins promisingly but quickly descends into a lazy mess. An interesting, though in no way new or unique premise, is used in the most uninspiring fashion. Utilising the obsessive/possessive troupe, Hypnotic becomes a plodding chore, losing the drive and promise of the opening scenes by the midway point. Disappointing. 

Spoiler territory: Andrea Bowen (Stephanie Cudmore) is alone in her office late into the evening. Peeking nervously through her office blinds. Somebody is watching her. She calls a police detective but gets his answer machine. 

She leaves her office and heads to the elevator. She is still nervous and panicky as she steps into the elevator. She gets an anonymous caller. I don’t know about you but I never answer anonymous calls. Andrea however, does. The caller tells her this is how the world ends. 

Andrea goes into a full-blown panic and feels the walls of the elevator closing in on her. That is the last we see of Ms Bowen. 

Jenn Tompson (Kate Siegel) arrives for her friends’, Gina (Lucie Guest) and Scott Kelman (Luck Roderique), housewarming. She apologises to an apprehensive Gina for her tardiness. She also apologises for drinking the bottle of wine she was going to bring them, offering up a frankly pathetic, dying plant instead. 

Gina is a little flustered. She had been trying to contact her because Brian (Jaime M Calllica) is at the party. Awkward. She did not think that Jenn was going to come. Ever the aspiring alcoholic, Jenn says she needs a glass of wine. 

Inside the new home, Jenn comforts herself with a glass of wine. She exchanges furtive glances with ex-fiancé, Brian. 

Truthfully, their housewarming looks like the most staged event ever, the home overflowing with people. It is more of a house showing-off. 

Anyhoo, ever the gracious host and good friend, Gina introduces Jenn to Dr Collin Meade (Jason O’Mara). She is gushing in praise of the good doctor – always a red flag – and encourages Jenn to go and see him. Jenn is not overly keen on the idea of therapy, preferring to wallow in her drunken depression. 

A little later, Gina, Scott, Jenn and Brian are sitting around a table chatting. Brian’s career is going really well. He is a software engineer and is explaining his new project when Brian, rudely, interrupts the conversation to ask about Jenn’s life and career. A reticent Jenn tells him she is between jobs. Unemployed. 

Brian goes to eat one of the hor d’oeuvres Gina and Scott had provided and is stopped by Jenn. The snack contains sesame, something Brian is extremely allergic to. Damn that Jenn! Thwarting Gina and Scott’s murderous plan! Brian seems nonplussed that his supposed friends were serving him life-threatening snacks. 

As the party wraps up, Jenn is still hugging a wine bottle and never-empty glass. Dr Collin gives her his card and tells her to call him. Outside the house, Brian thanks Jenn for saving his life. She is waiting for an Uber. 

They have a stilted, cryptic conversation, the kind only people who know one another can have. Brian offers to take her home. Jenn is reluctant, wary of her feelings. He tells her it is just a lift. She accepts the offer. 

In the morning, she wakes up to find a note from Brian on her pillow. It was the booze! Of course it was…She meets up with Gina and confesses her weakness of succumbing to Brian’s barely-made-an-effort game. Gina, ever the cheerleader for Dr Meade, advises her to go and see the therapist. 

Jenn, somewhat coerced by her enthusiastic friend, goes to see the doctor. In the spartan reception area of the doctor’s office, Jenn encounters another one of his patients, Tabby (Devyn Dalton). The slightly off-kilter Tabby gushes about the doctor’s abilities and how they have helped her. 

Jenn goes into Dr Collin’s somewhat cold office space. The doctor greets her. He is feeding his fish and remarks the having fish can be calming. I assume he means as a pet, not as part of one’s diet. 

He begins the session. He finds out that the crux of Jenn’s issues. She had been pregnant with her fiancé, Brian’s, child. The child had been stillborn six months into the term. 

Meade asks her if she had ever tried hypnotherapy. Jenn says she does not like the thought of being out of control. The fear of making monkey sounds every time you hear a bell is real! The good doctor assures her that she is the only one who can control her subconscious mind. He does not laugh manically. He should but resist the temptation. 

Jenn, at the end of her resistance in life anyway, agrees to be hypnotised. The session goes well and Jenn keeps up the sessions for a few months, getting her life together and finding employment. 

Jenn and Gina meet up, Jenn updating Gina about her life. Gina asks her if she is still seeing Meade for sessions. Jenn tells her twice a week for the past few months. 

Gina complains that she only saw him twice for sessions. No hypnotherapy. She wishes he would deal with her phobia of spiders. Be careful of what you wish for…

Jenn dreams of the doctor that night. They are in bed together. He caresses and tells her she is perfect. The next day, Jenn bumps into Dr Collin in the mall. Alarms bells? No…he invites her for coffee. 

Jenn asks him about himself. He had been married but his wife died. He tells her about his mentor, Doctor Sullivan. 

He changes the subject, asking how her relationship with Brian is. She is avoiding him, fearful of the feelings she would have to face. The doctor advises her to invite him over for dinner. Jenn is not so sure but follows the doctor’s suggestion. 

On the way to the supermarket, Jenn listens to a message from Brian accepting her invitation. She gets a call from an anonymous number. Answering the call, she falls into a trance. 

She snaps out of the trance and finds herself at home sitting at the dinner table. She hears someone choking in her bathroom. 

She goes into the bathroom and finds Brian on the floor, gasping for air. She gets him to the hospital. Gina comes to see her. Jenn tells her that she cannot remember anything about the evening. 

At her next session, Meade asks about Brian. He is in a coma. Jenn thinks it might be her fault. Meade gaslights her, babbling on about ego and the battle against fear. She needs to trust him. Okay. That night, she has a dream-cum-memory about Meade again. 

Troubled by the dream, Jenn goes to the kitchen for a glass of water. She finds the receipt from her trip to the supermarket, the last thing she remembered before waking up at the dinner table. The receipt triggers her memory. She remembers cooking with sesame seed oil. 

A troubled Jenn researches the good doctor. She finds out about Andrea Bowen, a former patient, and reads some worrying articles about the dark side of hypnotism. She goes to see Gina to voice her concerns. Gina does not buy it. She is team Meade all the way. 

Jenn believes that Collin could be using his hypnotherapy sessions nefariously. Gina, – team Meade! Rah! Rah! Rah! – thinks she is being ridiculous. Jenn shows her multiple articles addressing the same subject. Gina is a little more open to the possibility of something murky about her favourite doctor. 

They both go to see detective Wade Rollins (Dule Hill). Rollins worked on the case of Andrea Bowen. Jenn tells him that she has had strange happenings, believing they may be connected to her sessions with doctor Meade. Rollins tells them that he interviewed Meade. The investigation was halted shortly afterwards. 

He shows them the CCTV of Andrea Bowen freaking out in the lift. Not very professional. He advises that they stay away from Meade. They leave the detective’s office. 

Gina is worried. She had spoken about Jenn in her last session with Meade. She had also been hypnotised. 

Jenn decides to arrange a session with Meade, planning to record the session on her phone. 

His interest piqued by the visit from the two women, Rollins investigates similar deaths and finds that all the victims look similar. All were former patients of Meade and had undergone hypnotherapy.

After the session, Jenn is listening to the recording she made. Meade knows what she has done and that they were at the police station. Realising that Gina is in danger, she calls her friend. Gina is driving with Scott in the car. She is expecting a business call. Jenn calls trying to tell her that Meade knows they are looking at him. 

Jenn’s call cuts out. Gina receives another call. It is Meade. He tells her this is how the world ends. Gina falls into a trance. She believes a tarantula is crawling on her. Scott, the poor guy, has no idea what is happening. Gina, petrified by the tarantula, that only she can see, floors the accelerator. They get hit by a truck and killed. 

Rollins goes to see Meade. He tells him that Gina and Scott died in a car accident. She had been a patient of his. Had he given her any hypnotherapy sessions? Just one. Their last session. The doctor offers Rollins a hypnosis session. Rollins declines, pointing out that he only works his hypnotherapy on female clients. The doctor tells him he would make an exception. 

Rollins visits Jenn. He believes Gina’s death was caused by Meade. He is a detective after all. He leaves her with files on the other cases. There is another knock on the door. Jenn opens the door thinking it is Rollins. 

It is Meade. He causes Jenn to freeze with a hypnotic command. Yes, really. 

Meade proceeds to lay out his plans to her, wittering on like the crazy, control freak he is. He explains that all of his extreme acts are for her. Meade leaves. Jenn immediately rings Rollins and gets his voicemail. 

Rollins gets home and settles down for the evening. He hears a sound in his apartment. A knife-wielding Tabby attacks him. She slashes at him and when he disarms her, bites him. Rollins eventually overcomes her, killing her with a blow. 

Jenn visits him in the hospital the next day. She tells Rollins that she wants to get hypnotised by another therapist to perhaps help her recall what happens in sessions with Meade. She goes and sees doctor Stella Graham (Tanja Dixon-Warren). 

Dr Stella gives her a version of the ‘with great power come great responsibility’ speech, pointing out that hypnotherapy can be used for good or bad. Thank you, Sherlock. 

She tells her that she will put her under for a gentle session. Stella begins and asks Jenn about her sessions with Meade. Jenn begins choking. 

She recalls an address and fragments of memories with Meade. Stella snaps her out of the trance. Stella tells her that Meade planted some fail-safe suggestions in her mind to prevent the sort of thing that they were attempting. 

Stella is not confident that she can combat Meade’s auto-suggestions but she might be able to create a fail-safe override herself. Jenn decides to follow a memory after finding some research about an old CIA program that Meade’s supposed mentor was a part of. 

The program was a series of experiments exploring the possibility of planting false memories in peoples minds. 

Jenn tells Rollins that she going to the address, even as he advises against it. At the remote house – of course, it is remote – Jenn searches for doctor Sullivan. She sees a picture of a dark-haired woman hugging Meade. The woman looks like her. Meade startles her, standing behind her as he points out how beautiful his wife was. 

The house is his, left to him by his father, the now-deceased doctor Sullivan. Oops. Meade puts Jenn into a trance. 

Rollins, who had run some fingerprints from a spoon he had lifted from Meade’s office, gets the results. They are for a Julian Sullivan. That’s the same name as the other doctor! He tries to contact Jenn but gets her voicemail. Rollins gets out of his hospital bed. 

Jenn wakes up in the therapist office. She calls Rollins and tells him what he already knows; Meade is a Sullivan. Truthfully, Rollins should be embarrassed that it took four murders, – nope five, can’t forget Scott – for them to find Meade’s true identity, especially as he as in the system!

Jenn tells him that she is in Meade’s office. Rollins sends a SWAT team to the offices of Meade. Meanwhile, Meade is, once again, boring Jenn with his story and recounting the first time he saw her. 

Rollins is racing to the offices. The SWAT team are there already, preparing to enter the office. Meade wakes Jenn up. She is still in the house, the office scenario was all in her mind. 

Rollins is told that there is no one in the offices. Rollins gets the address of the Sullivan residence and races over there. In the Sullivan house, Jenn realises that Meade had planted memories he had with his deceased wife, Amy(Jessie Fraser), in her mind. Yeah, he did that. 

Meade has dressed up Jenn in the image of his deceased wife. She is unable to move due to his auto-suggestions. Rollins is racing to the house. Meade is still babbling sweet nothings and making plans for the future with the captive Jenn as Rollins enters the house. 

Meade hears him enter the house and leaves Jenn alone, forcing her to grip the bed frame. Rollins looks for Meade. Meade attacks him and they fight. Rollins loses his gun in the fight.

Jenn is struggling to break the trance that is keeping her in the bedroom. As they fight, Jenn breaks the trance and finds them. Meade is strangling Rollins. Rollins tells her to grab his gun. Meade shouts the sleep command and Jenn struggles to stay awake, picking up the gun. 

She points the gun at the fighting men and pulls the trigger. She wakes up with Rollins looking after her. He tells her it is all over and she is safe. he calls her ‘my love’. 

Doctor Stella had placed an auto-suggestion in her mind. It would let her see clearly if those words were uttered by Meade. Yes, she did! Jenn realises it is Meade, not Rollins. 

She escapes his grasp and finds Rollins. Meade pursues her, quickly finding her with Rollins. Rollins tells her has another gun in his ankle holster. Jenn kills Meade. 

One month later, Jenn is getting some sort of normality back in her life. Brian is still in a coma. She apologises to him for their relationship falling apart. She goes and sees Rollins. He has been promoted. She thanks him. Rollins gives her a hypnosis CD. What a comedian. The end. 

Final thoughts: directed by Matt Angel and Suzanne Coote and written by Richard D’Ovidio, Hypnotic is a good looking film and is competently directed. The script is quite good and almost makes up for the silly story. Almost. 

Mind control, hypnosis or remote possession has always been and will continue to be popular as a story element. The notion of being controlled by another is both the stuff of nightmares and dreams. 

Unfortunately, D’Ovidio’s story is too rushed, not allowing for any real buildup in tension. With a runtime of eighty-eight minutes, Hypnotic is not a long film but it is a little uneven. O’Mara’s Meade is the villain and fills the role comfortably but there is no subtlety in his villainy. 

Not that subtlety is necessary but the character and the speed at which he is accepted by the sceptical Jenn is not believable. The acting from all on show is good, with Lucie Guest particularly good as Gina, in a quite unforgiving role as the best friend. 

Unusually, the story, to its detriment, gives over almost half of its runtime to resolution. This affects the pacing and the emotional impact of the story, the set-up being too truncated for the viewer to care. 

Hypnotic is not a terrible film it is just a bit underwhelming. Hypnotic is watchable but by no means a must-watch. One you watch only if you watched all of your watchlist.

Us – a review (should you Get Out and see it?)

    I am not a fan of horror. Never have been. Truth be told I’m a bit of a scaredy-cat. Ever since the opening scene of Christopher Lee’s bloodshot eyes in 1970’s Taste The  Blood Of Dracula and an episode called Man From The South in Roald Dahl’s Tales Of The Unexpected, I have sworn off horror.

   Even for a television lover such as myself, I have not watched even one episode of the critically acclaimed show, American Horror Story. It says horror in the title, no thanks. I have made exceptions a few times.

   Anyone who reads my blogs knows I am a big Joss Whedon fan, if he is connected to a film, series or media of any kind, I’m in. So when I heard he had written a horror film, Cabin In The Woods. I watched it. I’m an adult, I can stomach a horror film. It was enjoyable hokum. 

   Jordan Peele’s Get Out snuck in under the radar. Never really billed as a horror film, it proved to be a runaway hit and a thoroughly entertaining watch. There are some who argue, with some justification, that Get Out is not really a horror film, though it did definitely have horror elements in it. 

    Peele’s latest effort is unmistakably in the horror genre. Us begins in 1986. A title screen tells us that North America is covered by a warren of long forgotten about tunnels. We are at a funfair with ten-year-old Adelaide Thomas (Madison Curry). It’s her birthday and her parents, Russell (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) and Rayne (Anna Diop) have taken her to the fair as part of the celebrations. 

    When Rayne goes to the toilets, leaving Russell to watch their daughter, Adelaide goes on walkabout. She ends up in a house of mirrors and sees something that she does not reveal when she is found some fifteen minutes later. 

   The doctors tell her parents that she is suffering from PTSD and that she should be encouraged to express herself through art. Fast forward to the present day and Adelaide  – an excellent Lupita Nyongo’o –  is grown up with a husband, Gabe Wilson (Winston Duke) and two children, a daughter, Zora (Shahadi Wright Joseph) and a younger son, Jason (Evan Alex). 

    Gabe tells Adelaide about a trip the family is going to take to Santa Barbara, to see the funfair and go to the beach. Adelaide is understandably reluctant as it was the same place her traumatic event took place many years before. Gabe says that they have been invited by friends, Josh and Kitty Taylor (Tim Heidecker, Elizabeth Moss). Adelaide grudgingly agrees. 

   At the beach, a taciturn Adelaide sits with a chatty Kitty as their husbands sit a little away from them relaxing. The Taylors have twin teenage daughters, Lindsay and Becca (Noelle and Cali Sheldon) who exhibit the nonplussed, disinterest of teenagers. When Jason disappears from sight for awhile having gone to the toilets, it sends Adelaide into a panic. 

   Back at the holiday apartment, she tells Gabe of her youthful trauma and asks to leave. Before they can decide what to do, everything starts to go badly. The lights in the apartment go out – it is a horror film – and when they look out of the window they see four figures standing in the driveway. 

   Adelaide, who had already been on edge and whose uneasy had only increased with the power loss, goes into full-blown panic mode. Gabe, trying to assert some control over the situation, goes out to confront the figures. That goes badly and the shadowy figures attack the apartment and take the family captive.

   The four figures turn out to be their doubles, exact replicas. They are all feral and only Red, Adelaide’s double, is capable of speech. They are all dressed in red jumpsuits and are all armed with large dressmaker’s scissors. Red tells Adelaide to secure herself to the coffee table. Not wanting her family to be harmed, Adelaide complies. Red tells Zora to run and then sends Umbrae, her double, after her.

   Jason’s double, Pluto,  goes with him to another part of the apartment and Gabe is fighting for his life against his doppelgänger, Abraham. When Jason outwits Pluto, Red goes to rescue him and the Wilsons escape. 

    They go to the Taylors apartment. Unfortunately, they find out that they are not the only ones with feral doubles. All the Taylors are dead and the Wilson clan, once again have to fight their way out of an apartment, this time against the Taylors doubles. 

   They take the Taylors SUV and hit the road. They encounter Umbrae, who is still out for blood. There is a brief altercation and she is killed. They keep driving and it is daylight now. They go back to their old apartment and find that their car has been set on fire. Pluto tries to trick them but, once again is outwitted by Jason, this time fatally. 

    Red grabs Jason and disappears into the house of mirrors. Adelaide pursues her and catches up with her. They fight and Adelaide kills and rescues Jason. The family drives to Mexico. 

    Peele’s follow up to Get Out is a classic horror. There are jump scares aplenty, an eerie and disconcerting soundscape and soundtrack, bloodletting galore with stabbing and cutting and the occasional bludgeoning. It covers all gore bases. The protagonist is truly terrifying and, given a little thought, haunting, as they represent every person in North America. 

   Nyongo’o’s star continues to rise and with Us, there is no chance of it waning. She is brilliant in her dual roles. As the only actor required to speak as both protagonist and antagonist, Nyongo’o separates the two characters in a vocal way that gives a nod to the, frankly obvious, twist that happens towards the end of the film. 

   That is not to say that the rest of the cast is poor, far from it. Winston Duke, whose scene-stealing turns as M’Baku in Black Panther brought him to prominence, is great as Gabe, the enthusiastic head of the family. Both Shahadi Wright Joseph and Evan Alex are good as the young siblings, with Evan given slightly more to do in his role, thus able to explore the character better. 

   Peele, once again, adds a little visual flair. He is not one for much camera wizardry, trusting the story to do the work of captivating the audience. There is, however, a very nice aerial shot as the family reaches the beach for the first time. The rest of the visual trickery is kept for tension inducing shots and jump scares. 

   Though, as I said in the opening paragraph, I am no fan of horror films and, as such, not wholly qualified to compare them, I do know a good film when I watch one. Us is a good film, it is not great and, in my opinion, not as good as Get Out.

Having said that, it is a much more linear film that Get Out and, at just under two hours in run time, worth a watch. Get out and see it.