Often times there are two ways a film can go. Either the movie is better than its premise, or the premise is better than the movie. Hypnotic is the latter. It sports a solid premise that struggles immensely with execution. What transpires is a mess of a film; tonally imbalanced and heavily reliant on a thunderous score to do most of its heavy lifting. It’s psychological without the thrills, at times inadvertently demonizing mental health solutions while giving far too much away too often. The premise lends itself to an interesting exploration of the mind and our control over our actions.
But the film never quite explores these issues with any real depth or concern. Hypnotic is lot of people using big words to talk about high level concepts and not much else. It’s all bark no bite, which is unfortunate because there should be a lot to like here. It should be a mystery viewers are excited to solve. Instead, it’s a puzzle that’s already put together, eliminating the need for any kind of suspense or thrill. It also lowers any punch the ending could pack, leaving the twists to be uninspired and dull.
Hypnotic is directed by Matt Angel and Suzanne Coote and written by Richard D’Ovidio (The Call, Thirteen Ghosts). It tells the story of Jenn Thompson, a troubled young woman suffering through a tragic loss recently. Hoping to better her life, she seeks out therapy from Dr. Colin Meade, her friend Gina’s therapist who recommended him. Meade is a strong believer in hypnotherapy, he offers this service to Jenn. She immediately starts to feel better, even getting a new job shortly after a few sessions. However, things take a turn for the worst when her life begins to crumble around her. She begins to suspect that Dr. Meade may not be who he says he is, and she may not be as in control of her own mind as she previously thought.
Solid Premise, Poor Execution
There is a huge struggle here, with the subject matters of therapy, hypnotism, and loss never really taking hold in any meaningful way. Hypnotic talks a lot but doesn’t say much, never giving you a reason to care about anyone or anything. Jenn Thompson (Kate Siegel) is far more complex on paper than she is actually portrayed. The same goes for Dr. Colin Meade (Jason O’Mara), who might as well wear a sign that says “Do not trust me, I am the villain.”
A better executed film should shroud the doctor in mystery until the final moments. Again, Meade is far more interesting and complex on paper than he ends up being portrayed in the film. That’s not a knock on Seigel or O’Mara, who both do the best with what they’re given. It’s unfortunate, because once Hypnotic peels back the supposed hidden layers to reveal its final twists, we should be shocked by it. Instead, we’re left to feel nothing because there’s no one to really feel for. We are only ever told of loss, never shown the mental and emotional toll those losses bring about. Everything is surface level at best, which is a disservice to the complexity of mental health solutions the film deals with.
The Wrong Look at Mental Health Solutions
This is where it really takes a turn for the worst. Because it never knows what to do with its ideas, the film ends up shedding the wrong light on the benefits of therapy. In a world in desperate for mental health guidance, understanding and acceptance, painting solutions with broad strokes for cheap vapid thrills seems rather out of touch with the current cultural climate. I get it, it’s a psychological thriller about hypnotherapy.
But the problem is that Hypnotic seems unconcerned with exploring the nature and consequences of suggestibility. I mean truly exploring them instead of just using fancy five dollar words to describe what they think it is and should be. It’s all over the place, and while we should be left guessing until the very end, it all plays out with far too much predictability. It gives too much away too fast and then tries to pretend that it’s more clever than it actually is.
Lastly, Nathan Matthew David’s score booms and swells so loud it feels like it was written for a different film altogether. It is noticeably out of place, bursting with intensity that seldom matches what’s happening on screen. This all harkens back to how highly the film thinks of itself vs what’s actually being made. It believes itself to be a deep and dark thriller, and the film is scored as if every single moment is meaningful. However, there isn’t enough depth or thrills to warrant such powerful sound, adding to the mess and shouldering most if not all of the thrills Hypnotic thinks it has to offer. You’re left wanting good ideas to be done better.
I enjoy a good psychological thriller, and when done right they can have a lasting impact on the viewer. You want these kinds of films to be discussed long after you leave the theater or finish your stream. Audiences should be left needing to unpack your experience and sift through the nuances and clues you missed throughout. Hypnotic has none of that, instead being largely forgettable and leaving nothing to talk about afterwards. It’s messy, tonally imbalanced and not nearly as good as the premise suggests. It leaves viewers wanting more from Hypnotic instead of more of it. Even for a film tailored made for spooky season, this is one you should probably skip.
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