Feb 27, 2023
Steff Ivory Conover, Mischa O'Hoski, Ryan Brown
From debut director Chris Cheeseman comes Mind Leech, a horror-comedy B-movie that mixes Invasion of the Body-Snatchers, Fargo and that Polymorph episode of Red Dwarf to create a trim, fun and suitably mindless feature.
On a snowy Boxing Day in 1998, a small-time ice-drilling operation frees a mysterious, menacing mind leech from its frozen trappings. As it wreaks havoc around the town of Provinstate, police Deputy Terrika Johnson (Steff Ivory Conover) and Sheriff Benjamin Pailey Jr. (Mischa O’Hoski) investigate a trail of bodies that lead them directly into the monster’s path. They are left with terrible decisions between their lives or their friends as the leech attempts to reach the town’s lake.
Old-school B-movie fun in a scenic setting, Mind Leech is gory and tense but has as much depth as a Ryanair cabin bag. And given it features likeable characters, impressive practical effects and tells its straightforward story at in a well-paced hour, it really doesn’t suffer all that much from not being War and Peace. It’s unashamed embrace of the blood ‘n’ guts audience and macabre black comedy show that director Chris Cheeseman understood his assignment – and displays impressive restraint for a debut director in not overbearing the plot.
Steff Conover’s connection with the viewer is formed effortlessly. Affable, vulnerable but also wisecracking and fearless, the film kicks up a gear when it becomes clear that she is on a collision course with the leech’s zombified victims. A nail-biting cat and mouse chase through a warehouse is the film’s highlight, and a fantastic demonstration of how to send tension into overdrive – particularly after the film has already established that no cast member is safe from the leech.
The frozen, remote small-town setting (in a film fronted by two police officers) make this Fargo: horror edition – but if you’re going to take from one of the greats, you have to do it justice. Thankfully this film makes the most of its stunning backdrop, and interlaces the setting with the plot – and with the gruesome death scenes which the director takes clear pleasure in making as grizzly as possible. Props to the prop and effects department too – for making the leech itself as well as the variety of protruding weapons look authentic and discomforting.
The film is far from perfect – being devoid of any discernible message or theme in favour of racing straight to the brainwashing. With this in mind, it was a wise call to keep the film’s runtime to a limit in order to ensure that the action sequences and slaughter scenes never outstay their welcome.
However the film’s ending feels particularly rushed regardless – with one too many plotlines left unfinished and characters outside of the two leads feeling underdeveloped. Outside of its standout setting and lead performance, the plot is one that has been reheated many a time, and veteran horror fans couldn’t be blamed for wanting a bit more originality or refinement.
But for anyone looking for a tongue-in-cheek fun horror to switch their brain off to, Mind Leech is one to check out. Just make sure it doesn’t get hijacked in the process…