Review: “Mindhunters”

An interesting if not entirely successful revisiting of the serial killer thriller, “Mindhunters” takes on the genre by using one of the oldest and most familiar setups there is – the result is something that trots down familiar paths but does it with flair.

Legendary mystery author Agatha Christie had many great books, but it is “And Then There Were None” that is arguably considered her best and pretty much heralded as the origin of the setup – a group of strangers in a remote and isolated location start being killed off one by one – the survivors forced to consider the possibility that it’s one of those remaining who’s responsible.

Christie’s mystery has a genuinely surprising twist ending that still makes it the best story this genre has produced (even if the direct film adaptations have been less than stellar). “Mindhunters” ultimate solution though will be guessed by a number of audience goers although there’s enough misdirection, red herrings and well planned out twists that it essentially does keep one guessing or at least unsure until the big reveal.

Unfortunately like all films in this genre, the ending here is admittedly anti climactic and the motives laughable. Still, that doesn’t take a way from what for the most part is a pretty solid thriller. Harlin’s more restrained than usual direction and the interesting visual style – dark yet colourful, but thankfully avoiding any MTV/CSI style annoying cuts & montages – are quite appealing as well.

The idea of the killer’s use of time effectively keeps the pace fast and various action sequences are delivered with Harlin’s usual strong talent for shooting well-crafted action pieces. There’s an interesting and well mixed cast with all doing decent jobs – Morris, Kilmer and Collins especially.

The only weak links are Miller donning an atrociously fake Southern accent and Velasquez who does well but struggles with one or two scenes. LL Cool J plays himself as usual, at times he sticks out like a sore thumb, but at others including the film’s best sequence (involving water & electricity) you’re glad he’s there.

The various deaths are elaborate and for the most part quite surprising. Fans of the “Final Destination” series will get a kick out of this with lots of very gory and horrible killings that takes it a little too far into horror territory and ultimately may turn away a more mainstream audience. Make no mistake whilst in someways this is a more clean cut and understated affair than the likes of “Se7en”, it’s still a somewhat relentless hard R rated flick.

The production design and location work is effectively moody and well thought out – the island itself convincing for what it is. The script is flawed, with quite a few holes & dumb behaviour from people who should certainly know better, but overall remains a relatively tight affair – at least until the awkward ending.

A really strong and clever finish could’ve pushed this into one of the more memorable films of this type (eg. “Identity”), as it stands it’s certainly better than most (like the woeful “D-Tox” for one). Some more polishing could’ve been done, but what’s here is essentially a decent and solid chiller flick. Worth investigating.