Movie Review: Hypnotic (2021)

TL;DR – A psychiatrist uses hypnosis to take control of women who look like his late wife. A drivel of a film lacking any substance.

Review (warning: spoilers)

Hypnotic opens with a female security guard being asked over the intercom by some male security guard to go ahead and do her rounds and he will come and cover the desk. It is late in the evening and the place is largely empty. The desk has a single monitor with CCTV coverage of various areas of the building. The camera then shifts to inside the building to an office with the name ‘Andrea B’ on the glass door and a woman peeks through the blinds from within. The woman is Andrea Bowen (Stephanie Cudmore), she’s scared and nervous as she makes a call to a Detective Wade Rollins (Dulé Hill) from the Portland PD and leaves a message saying she believes ‘he’ is still watching him. With eyes, red-rimmed and tearful, she walks to the elevator which takes her down from the 18th floor to ground, as the numbers count down, she receives a phone call from ‘Unknown Caller’ and thinks it is the detective.

Cue strange man’s voice who says, “Andrea, this is how the world ends.” The elevator stops suddenly, Andrea starts screaming as the walls of the elevator start closing in… literally. Trapped in a vice, the scene fades as Andrea is crushed.

Without having read anything about this film, given this opening scene and movie title, I’m guessing there’s a psychopathic psychiatrist who uses hypnosis on his patients and when using a key word or sentence such as “this is how the world ends”, triggers the patient to mentally believe they will die even if part of their brain says, “I’m in an elevator and elevator walls do not suddenly start moving in to crush me like a garbage compactor”.

We now meet Jenn Tompson (Kate Siegel) who arrives at a party with a pot plant that has seen better days. At the front door, she is greeted by her friend, Gina Kelman (Lucie Guest), and Jenn confesses she bought a bottle of wine to bring to the party but already drank it and instead brought a plant that she now notices is dead. Gina doesn’t care about the plant and says she tried calling her to tell her ‘Brian’ is here. Jenn’s expression is all you need to know that her and Brian were once a thing but they are now not a thing anymore. Jenn decides to brave the party anyway and asks for a glass of wine. Clearly, alcohol being the only thing getting her through life at this moment.

During the party Jenn is introduced by Gina to Dr Collin Meade (Jason O’Mara). Gina speaks glowingly of the assistance and therapy Collin has given her and attributes her recent promotion up the career ladder to him. For all the alcohol consumed, Jenn is still astute enough to say to Collin that she didn’t know that therapists could hang out with their patients. To which, Collin replies bashfully that he follows the rules 99% of the time then lowers it to 95%, which gets a giggle out of Jenn.

She excuses herself when she sees Brian (Jaime M. Callica) and ends up in a four-way conversation with him, Gina and Gina’s husband, Scotty (Luc Roderique). Collin inserts himself into the conversation by asking what Jenn does and discovers she is a software engineer like Brian. We also find out that Brian has a severe sesame seed allergy requiring an epi-pen to be carried around with him. I’m already guessing Brian is not going to make it to the end of the film and will consume sesame seed unknowingly with no epi-pen in sight. Collin leaves his business card for Jenn before the party ends.

Sessions ensue involving hypnotherapy and three months pass with Jenn turning her life around. She invites Brian over for dinner (at the suggestion of the good doctor). To prepare, she is at a grocery store when she receives a phone call from an ‘Unknown Caller’ and she freezes. She then awakens sitting down in her house with dinner laid out on the table, she doesn’t remember any of this (and has lost a passage of time) and hears someone choking in the bathroom. Sure enough, it’s Brian having an allergic reaction. She manages to find an epi-pen and calls the ambulance, but Brian ends up in a coma (so, I was close, he doesn’t die but almost).

The rest of the film follows the path of psychological thrillers where Jenn tries to figure out what is happening to her, and the good doctor espouses ‘therapy’ that talks about not letting fear win and allowing her to trust him when we know he is said psychopath. It’s a by-the-numbers affair which delivers style over substance and thus falls short of any thrills.

I cannot stress strongly enough that this film takes great liberties surrounding what it portrays as ‘therapy’. The idea of just being happy and not letting fear win is not something any proper psychiatrist would seek to instil in their patient. Part of who we are is feeling the spectrum of emotions that comes from being human and that includes happiness, joy, sadness and fear. Suffice to say, however, that even if I turn my mind off and treat the idea of hypnosis as mind-control purely as a story mechanic designed to bring tension, it still falls flat. That Collin uses hypnosis to control women who look like his late wife is both contrived and cliché. Any attempt at twists or shocks failing miserably due to a plot that has nothing going for it.

Hypnotic is truly a boring affair.

1 out of 10

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