Mindhunters has a stupid title. It would be a weak title for a film about predatory psychics, and that’s not even what this film is about. The two words in the portmanteau do have relevance to the plot, but you could make an equally strong argument for almost any pair – Clockwatchers, Stringpullers and Dummystreet are all just as valid. They may actually have picked the title from a hat filled with relevant words.
It’s called Mindhunters because it’s about FBI profilers who try and track serial killers by understanding their minds. The basic idea should be familiar to anyone who has watched television in the last twenty years. Unlike every other show or film based around these profilers, Mindhunters takes an indirect approach to the whole idea of profiling.
A group of trainee profilers are sent to an island by their maverick boss (Val Kilmer). They’re meant to spend the weekend in the decaying fake town there, solving a serial killer simulation. However, there’s a problem: the island also contains a real serial killer. The team of terrified trainees have to use all of their FBI-skills to track the killer down while his traps pick them off one by one.
Mostly, it’s a slasher/horror film, with a thin veneer of FBI profiling on top. It’s closer to Saw than it is to Criminal Minds. If you’re looking for a slow, complex game of cat-and-mouse, delving deep into the psychology of monsters, this is not the film for you. If you’re looking for a decent and unconventional slasher, with lots of varied killings, you might like this. If, like me, you have a weakness for films in which LL Cool J tries to escape a dangerous facility in ridiculous ways, then you should love this.
It’s very much a film of its time and genre. Crosses double and redouble and no one counts as dead unless parts of them have been fully detached. Characters fluctuate between able to take huge amounts of punishment and keep fighting (with nearby objects and generic martial arts), and helpless choking death when they could have easily been fine.
The plot makes sense, but leaves you with some pressing questions – did that character really have time to do that? How would the killer have been able to predict that specific and unlikely sequence of events? However, such questions are part and parcel of slasher films, and have to be forgiven, if not forgotten. Pointing out the flaws is part of the charm.
The level of violence is inconsistent. Sometimes it’s cartoonish, with heads popping off. Sometimes it’s ‘realistic’, with lots of grunting and focus on scrapes and cuts. Very occasionally, it takes a sharp turn towards the deeply creepy, and you spot a proper horror film trying to assert itself. That’s rare though. Mostly, it’s about as visceral and chilling as a Jaws knock-off: too over-the-top to be threatening.
My biggest issue with Mindhunters, and it is an issue with a lot of budget horror films, is the idiocy of the characters. The characters are all highly-trained FBI agents, but they suffer from both genre-blindness and a total lack of common sense. They approach creepy houses at night, alone. They split up and run deeper into the facility, when all they had to do was not do that. They turn on each other at the slightest provocation, when that is the least helpful course of action. Wincing at characters’ stupidity is part of the fun of films like this, but come on. A group of FBI elite agents trained for exactly this scenario should not be less good at survival than the drunk and giggly cheerleaders of every other slasher film.
With that said, I did enjoy it. It’s ridiculous and unreasonable and predictable, but it’s also fun – not always intentionally. If you want a bad horror film you can laught at (and occasionally feel slightly tense), this is a decent pick.