Film

Review: Horror Clunker Hypnotic Suffers from Predictability, Empty Characters and Lack of Tension

Kate Siegel is a solid actress who has a tendency to truly shine in films directed by husband and collaborator Mike Flanagan (Oculus, Hush, Ouija: Origin of Evil, and the Netflix series The Haunting of Hill House and Midnight Mass, to name a few). So it should surprise no one that Hypnotic, Siegel’s first film in a while without Flanagan, feels like something less than. It’s through no fault of her own, aside from agreeing to be in it. To give credit/blame where it is due, the movie is written by Richard D’Ovidio and helmed by the directing team of Matt Angel and Suzanne Coote (The Open House), and it feels like a chopped-down version of another, longer film that once made some degree of sense and perhaps made a fleeting attempt at digging a little deeper into its aggressively empty characters.

Hypnotic

Image courtesy of Netflix

Siegel plays Jenn, a woman “between jobs” who is also stuck personally between relationships. Having recently broken up with Brian(Jaime M. Callica), a man she truly loved and was engaged to, she ended things after losing a child they were expecting after it was born too early to survive. This sends her into a downward spiral that she’s still in the midst of when we meet her. Her best friend (Lucie Guest) suggests seeing her therapist, Dr. Collin Meade (Jason O’Mara), who, it turns out, is an expert in hypnotherapy. When Jenn finally agrees to see him after meeting him at a party, he thinks she’d be an excellent candidate for hypnosis. Better yet, after just a few sessions, her burdens seem to be easing, she gets a job, and even tentatively gets Brian back in her life.

Naturally, Dr. Meade is a creepy creep, and when peripheral people in Jenn’s life start turning up dead, she begins to suspect that either the doctor is killing them or somehow hypnotizing her into doing it. Hypnotic has what feels like a really loose grip on how people are hypnotized or to what degree they can be controlled, but before long Jenn is researching extreme versions of hypnosis that were the subject of experiments by the military and other clandestine organizations throughout the years. In fact, if memory serves, the film has two or three separate research montages for various things that need looking into, making it brutally clear that Jenn has missed her calling as an investigative reporter.

By the time the police are actually brought into the story (in the form of Dulé Hill’s Det. Wade Rollins), we pretty much know who’s doing what to whom in these therapy sessions, and the rest of Hypnotic is just about filling in the details, which are about as useless and dumb as you might expect. But far worse is that Siegel is basically the only one playing an even somewhat fully realized character here. Hill is maudlin and grumpy. O’Mara is so polished, there’s no way we would ever trust him. And everybody else seems to be there for Jenn’s plotline to weave through and occasionally bump into. Hypnotic never generates enough tension to qualify as a full-bore thriller; it’s certainly not scary enough to be a horror movie, despite a few hypnosis sequences for Jenn that make attempts at jarring the audience; and it doesn’t dive into the character’s lives enough to even approximate an intense drama.

What’s left might qualify for a higher-quality Lifetime movie (My Hypnotherapist, My Stalker), but it’s certainly not the best choice as a release to watch with Halloween right around the corner. What’s left is a clunker that won’t hurt Siegel’s career, but may have fans think twice about exploring her non-Flanagan offerings.

The film is now streaming on Netflix.

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