Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Mind Killer (1987)

... aka: Brain Creatures, The
... aka: Menta asesina (Killer Mind)
... aka: Mindkiller
... aka: Mind Killer - Halb Alien, Halb Mensch (Mind Killer – Half Alien, Half Human)
... aka: Transformator

Directed by:
Michael Krueger

Despite being the son of a study professional wrestler, nerdy, lonely library clerk Warren McDaniels (Joe McDonald) is having an impossible time meeting ladies. Usually left alone on weekends with his girlie magazines, Warren views the how-to video “The Manly Art of Seduction” and decides to try out a few of the pointers at the local bar. Unfortunately, he strikes out yet again because he always gets so nervous around women that he ends up making a fool of himself. His roommate Brad (Kevin Hart), on the other hand, has an effortless way with the opposite sex and has to beat girls off with a stick. Warren grows bitter and jealous and then starts displaying self-destructive tendencies like cutting himself and punching a mirror. Brad encourages him to just be himself but Warren hopelessly confides “I've been myself my whole life and even I don't like me.”

Warren works at the library as an archivist, along with his equally geeky pal Larry (Christopher Wade). Their asshole boss Mr. Townsend (George Flynn) brings in a new consultant, Sandy Crawford (Shirley Ross), who's been hired to help reorganize their out of date library system. Warren falls instantly in love with his new coworker. He tries to ask her to the movies but she (kindly) rejects him because of her policy of not dating anyone she works with.

Going through some old files, Warren stumbles upon an old manuscript written by a research psychologist named Vivac Chandra (Tom Henry), who supposedly died thirty years earlier of mysterious causes that also drove his own mother (Diana Calhoun) crazy. After reading it, Warren feels like a brand new man. He also realizes he now has the power to control many things using just his mind. Not only can he use telekinesis to move inanimate objects, but he can also control the thoughts and actions of others and even predict the immediate future. He helps Larry solve a Rubik's Cube, helps with a jammed vending machine, starts excelling at work, turns himself into a culinary wizard, makes his boss publicly strip down to his underwear to humiliate himself and much more. He also finds that he can use his powers to improve his love life. He picks up a blonde at the bar for “practice” but ultimately has his sights set on Sandy. However, for some strange reason, he finds he cannot control Sandy's mind so easily.

The more Warren uses his new powers, the more his personality and his physical appearance starts changing. He becomes short-tempered and irritable and starts suffering from throbbing headaches. His hair also starts falling out and he eventually becomes a bulbous-headed monster. Chandra's mother is thankfully still around (though as crazy as ever) and has left her son's lab mostly intact so Warren's friend is able to get his hands on some contraption called an “electrical conducer” that factors into the ending.

Neither great nor terrible, this is pretty typical low-budget 80s regional product made for the video market, and clearly influenced by the superior films of David Cronenberg and Stuart Gordon. On the down side, it's extremely talky and, aside from a brief prologue, the horror aspects don't really kick in until the very end. On the plus side, the dialogue is surprisingly sharp, witty and well-written at times. I was especially fond of “Care for a mint, Svengali?” and there's also a funny jab at then-president Ronald Reagan (“Third rate actors go real far in politics!”) The primary cast, especially McDonald, isn't too bad either and the male characters are atypically sensitive. There's a strange blue, purple and pink heavy color scheme and a song from Jill Sobule (of “I Kissed a Girl” fame) on the soundtrack. It was filmed in Denver, Colorado.

The director also made Night Vision (1987) and wrote and produced Lone Wolf (1988), both of which feature many of the same actors seen here. According to IMDb, he died in 1990, though it gives no further details. The special effects are by Vincent J. Guastini and Patrick Denver. Ted A. Bohus, who produced and co-wrote the cult favorite The Deadly Spawn (1983) and went on to direct Regenerated Man (1994) and Vampire Vixens from Venus (1995), was the fx supervisor and also gets a credit for additional story material. I'm not aware of any official DVD release, just a VHS from Prism (who also helped back the project) in 1987.

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