Paul Krysinski in Mind Leech (Photos: Mind Leech Productions)

By Matt Brunson

★★½ (out of four)
DIRECTED BY Chris Cheeseman & Paul Krysinski
STARS Steff Ivory Conover, Mischa Hoski

The title creature in Mind Leech seems to have hailed from the 1970s, as its elongated form brings to mind the wormy monsters found in David Cronenberg’s 1975 Shivers (aka The Parasite Murders) and Jeff Lieberman’s 1976 Squirm. The music that plays over the opening credits is pure 1980s, a synth-heavy score (by Zak Hanna) that makes one expect to see the name John Carpenter or maybe Charles Band somewhere on the screen. The setting is the 1990s — 1998, to be exact — meaning that the story takes place a long time ago in, well, this galaxy. But everything else, from the polish to the performances, is unquestionably 21st century.

An indie horror flick that often looks pricier than its low budget credentials would suggest, this Canadian production is set in fictional Provinstate, a small, sleepy town somewhere up yonder. Two guys amusingly billed in the credits as “Asshole Polluter” (played by the film’s writer-director, Chris Cheeseman) and “Idiot Polluter” (Hugh Goodden) are busy dumping a leaky barrel filled with toxic waste into a local lake — as we all know, leaky containers can result in zombies, as in The Return of the Living Dead, homicidal maniacs, as in The Crazies, or a mind leech, as in Mind Leech.

The story follows the mind leech as it attaches itself to the head of a rube (played by co-director Paul Krysinski) and forces its host to speak in gibberish and gorily dispatch of anyone who’s around. Diligently trying to get to the bottom of things are two local law enforcement officers: Deputy “TJ” Johnson (Steff Ivory Conover), whose cold-weather duds and folksy demeanor occasionally bring to mind Frances McDormand’s Marge Gunderson from Fargo, and Sheriff Benjamin Pailey (Mischa Hoski).

Mischa Hoski in Mind Leech

Since Cheeseman has let it be known that the movie was largely improvised, six of the actors receive credit for the screenplay. What they’ve created is an entertaining piece that’s bolstered by good performances and groovy special effects. The mind leech is both terrifying and amusing (it often looks like a supersized gummy worm) while the gore is sure to unsettle some viewers — the shots involving a planted axe would alone earn this an “R” on the multiplex circuit.

Mind Leech only runs an hour, but while most of it is engaging, there are too many minutes devoted to stretched-out chases and searches. Doubtless, these were devised for maximum tension, but maximum seat-shuffling is a more likely reaction. And the abrupt ending — a conclusion that appears with character developments still in progress and plot threads still dangling — makes the entire project feel more like an industry calling card than a fully formed and self-sufficient motion picture. Then again, it could be that Cheeseman and company were already expecting and planning a sequel from day one. If a title is being sought, I would humbly suggest Mind Leech 2: A Mind Leech Is a Terrible Thing to Waste.

(To stream Mind Leech, go here.)

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