We’ve had slasher films aplenty this year on Netflix from the critically acclaimed “Fear Street Trilogy” to the not-so-great “There Someone In Your House”. With Halloween coming up, we couldn’t help but feel something missing from our spooky film laundry list. We haven’t seen a good psycho-horror in a long while and just in the nick of time, we get “Hypnotic”. A cerebral psychological horror film that presents a nuanced and complex picture of those suffering from mental health. Nah, we’re just joking, it looks pretty dumb and campy. The moment we saw the trailer, we were getting big, cheesy “Hollow Man” vibes. Not to be confused with 2020’s brilliant “The Invincible Man”.
It takes on a surprisingly literal interpretation of what a psyho-horror film is, chalked full of the typical Hollywood tropes you’d expect. Think irrational phobias, hallucinations and hypnotisim. The only question is this: Does “Hypnotic” manage to deliver some good mind-thriller fun? Well let’s find out!
By the way, marketing tip 101: never spell out the entire plot of the film in the trailer! This rings especially true when you’re tackling a psychological thriller. There should be flashes of the story with striking imagery and ambiguous lines that peak our interest. However, there’s zero mystery here seeing that we already know that the hypnotherapist in question will prove to be a monster. So at this point, we’re just waiting for the shoe to drop.
For those unacquainted with the film’s premise, “Hypnotic” follows the story of Jennifer “Jenn” Thompson. An unemployed, emotionally-crippled and broken woman trying to recover from a traumatic incident. Her life takes a sudden turn when her friend recommends that she visits Dr Meade. A charming, handsome and wealthy hypnotherapist. Jennifer is sceptical at first but then she finds that she can’t stop thinking about the doctor. Things all go to hell when Meade reveals his true colours as a psychotic, pervy, manipulative murderer. Jennifer must now battle to wrestle herself, and her loved ones, away from this mad hypnotist’s clutches.
In spite of the film’s penny-dime premise, there’s a lot the film could have done to elevate the story. The idea of not being in control of your body is a genuinely terrifying prospect. Something that the film could have used to be a powerful analogy about the dangers of gaslighting and self-help scams. That’s not the kind of film we get here, though. This film’s cartoonish depiction of Dr Meade’s hypnotic skills (or psychic powers) are so far removed from reality that they don’t even register on our radar as a legitimate threat. Dr Meade is essentially Kilgrave from “Jessica Jones” except a lot less charismatic and likeable.
The film’s treatment on mental health isn’t particularly offensive. It’s just incredibly juvenile in its presentation. There’s more to trauma than one-liners and adages about how there’s a root cause to symptoms of anxiety or depression. They could have leaned into the emotional terror of films like “Hereditary” to give the plot more dramatic weight. Or hell, if it wants to go all-out in creating reality-shattering mind games, why not take a page from “Oculus”. While we see flashes of these elements occasionally, there is a fundamental lack of commitment to any of them. It leaves us in this unhappy compromise of unbelievable and uninteresting. Like a Hallmark film.
That being said, we do appreciate the film giving Jennifer a proactive role throughout the narrative. She isn’t some ditzy, pretty girl being suckered into a trap. She sees the red flags and acts upon them, she even gets the authorities involved within the first act of the film. The second and third act of the film picks up with a lot more developments. So yes, while the plot is terrible, it is at the very least expeditious in its awfulness…hooray.
Kate Siegel from Mike Flanagan’s “The Haunting of Hill House” and “Midnight Mass” plays Jennifer. In films like 2016’s “Hush”, Siegel has shown herself to able to carry a leading role well. Capable of inhabiting unconvetional and conventional roles while carrying a groudedness and gravitas with her. None of that is present here, though. She seems to only have three modes: sad, confused and distressed. A far cry from her previous achievements.
Actor Jason O’Mara as Dr Meade was the only highlight of this abysmal affair. Don’t get us wrong, his performance here isn’t avant garde or anything. We just love to see O’Mara do his best Hannibal Lecter impression as he struts around barely holding together a facade of normalcy. Some of the things that come out of his mouth are so outlandish that you’ll have to rewind just to take it all in. Can somebody please get our man a glass of water? His jaw must be tired from chewing the scenery. Actor Dulé Hill as Detective Wade Rollins plays the film’s resident Doctor Loomis, working with Jennifer to expose Meade for the monster he truly is. Fans of Star World’s “Psych” will definitely get a kick out of seeing Hill going from Guster to grizzled detective. Spoiler alert: he does great.
In terms of cinematography and the film’s technical aspects, it is woefully unimaginative. Part of the fun of watching a psychological thriller or horror film is the ambiguity. The fine line between what we perceive as the characters’ flawed perspectives and what is diegetic to the plot. In “Hypnotic”, that line is a bloody wall with giant neon signs that read “this is not real”. The blurry effects, the sudden zoom-ins and lacklustre CGI effects are all so uninspired. So dull and predictable, it removes any challenge from the audience. At best it’s mildly amusing, at worst it’s insulting.
Netflix’s “Hypnotic” is as much a psychological horror film as a go-kart is to a Ferrari. Though it carries the rudimentary elements of the genre, it invokes none of the mystique and thrills inherent to it. Beyond an amusing performance by Jason O’Mara, there is little joy or terror to extract from “Hypnotic”. Its lip-service to mental health and trauma isn’t inoffensive; it’s worse. It’s bland. If you are interested in watching a proper psychological thriller starring Kate Siegel, we highly recommend “Hush” and “The Haunting of Hill House”. Nonetheless, you can catch “Hypnotic” today on Netflix.
So, what are your thoughts on Netflix’s “Hypnotic”? What’s your favourite psychological horror or thriller film? Be sure to let us know in the comments!
Netflix's "Hypnotic" Review
Netflix's "Hypnotic" is as much a psychological horror film as a go-kart is to a Ferrari. Though it carries the rudimentary elements of the genre, it invokes none of the mystique and thrills inherent to it. Beyond an amusing performance by Jason O'Mara, there is little joy or terror to extract from "Hypnotic". Its lip-service to mental health and trauma isn't inoffensive; it's worse.
- Netflix's "Hypnotic" Review