Review: The Mind’s Eye

The Mind’s Eye
Director: Joe Begos
Starring: Graham Skipper, Lauren Ashley Carter, John Speredakos
Runtime: 87 minutes
Rating: Not Rated


The Mind's Eye Movie Review


Do you remember when body horror was dark, sexy, and too gory for children?

Joe Begos remembers.

In a DePalma-laced throwback to 70’s/80’s horror, Begos creates an alternate universe in the early 90’s in which gifted outliers with psychokinetic powers roam the country, avoiding attention and trying their best to live a normal life. Zack Connors (played by the talented Graham Skipper) is one such outlier. We meet him at the beginning of the film, walking alone through the snowy town. He seems perfectly fine with his lone wolf status, until some local cops on a power trip accost him into a panic. Restrained in a chokehold, Connors reveals his power and destroys some police property, tossing a cop onto the pavement like a rag doll. An intense, quaking stare is all it takes to remove objects – and people – from his path. Nonetheless, he’s subdued and brought in for questioning.


The Mind's Eye Movie Review


In the police station, he meets Dr. Slovak. Slovak reels him in like a twisted Dr. Xavier to a wary Wolverine, promising to help him and reunite him with Rachel (played by an expressive Lauren Ashley Carter). Despite his soothing demeanor, Slovak is a bad egg who keeps other such gifted people imprisoned in his home so he can drain their abilities and consume their power. Whereas Connors sees his gift as more of a curse, Slovak sees a nefarious potential in those abilities. The demarcation between good and evil couldn’t be any more clear in this movie, and John Speredakos inhabits the role of power-hungry madman with an over-the-top zeal that you can’t help but grin at. Conversely, Graham Skipper takes a more subdued approach to his role, providing a nice balance to his Lex-Lutherian adversary. It makes sense, as Zack Connors is not a willing hero; rather, he is manipulated into conflict and forced to act accordingly to save those close to him.

Conners eventually grows tired of his captive situation, so he locates and escapes with fellow prisoner Rachel. Dr. Slovak isn’t pleased, and so begins a thrilling chase that ends with an inevitable showdown to prove who wields the baddest brain power on the block. The movie is rife with scifi tropes, creatively deployed in such a manner that at times you forget you’re watching a second effort from an indie director. The themes bear many similarities to those of Scanners, particularly the connection between sexuality and power. It’s obvious that Begos is a Cronenberg enthusiast, and every scene, no matter how crude, is an ode to the body horror master.

For a low-budget film, this really delivers. Begos went in with a low spending limit, and it’s apparent that he spent most of that scratch on the effects department. Considering the finished product, I’m glad he made that decision. The utter carnage that ensued during the third act of the movie was some of the most memorable mayhem I’ve seen in a long time. Exploding heads, flying flesh debris, and not-so-minor axe wounds amplify the scifi celebration. While some cinephiles may balk at the close-up quivering gazes and (wire-supported) swaying axes, Begos’ vision shines through the shoestring budget. This is a legit midnight feature, where staying true to the genre is what really matters. From the mental warfare to the corporate conspiracy to the lively practical effects, The Mind’s Eye stays true.



Graham Skipper and Lauren Ashley Carter are both in fine form, playing their starring roles with restraint and vulnerable ferocity, respectively. They provide a solemn yin to John Speredakos’s campy yang, and it all just works. Indie horror darling Larry Fessenden shows up in a few endearing scenes as Connors’ father, bringing his A-game to the role, as always. I found it particularly striking that Fessenden’s performance brought more gravity to the conflict, despite dropping in halfway through the film.

The soundtrack is especially of note, as well. From the title card at the beginning reading “THIS FILM SHOULD BE PLAYED LOUD”, the use of sound in the film is paramount. Sound effects are utilized to great effect to display when psychokenetic powers are being used, rather than simply relying on visual cues like nosebleeds and distended veins. Sound effects designer Graham Reznick dishes out a handful of penetrating sounds, like the cerebral rumble that Zack emits when he deploys his kinetic abilities. It creates an unsettling effect common in body horror, particularly – you guessed it – Cronenberg’s Scanners. The film is truly a throwback, and a riotous one, at that.

When it comes down to it, you can hate on the familiar route and threadbare upholstery, or you can crank the tunes and enjoy the ride. The Mind’s Eye is a fun flick, straight up; the kind of film that the late-night double feature was meant for. The rough-around-the-edges production value only adds to the appeal and gives it an authenticity that many genre fans have been looking for in the age of the polished remake and the rebooted cash-grab. Pour some booze, watch it with your friends, and whoop and holler at the gratuitous gore.

Horror Writers Rating: 4/5 stars.

The Mind’s Eye is currently available on VOD and DVD.

The Haunted House: A Short Story

Frederick stood 50 feet from the entrance of the haunted house while his teammates pleaded with him to go inside.  He rattled off a bunch of statistics of mechanical failings in these kinds of pop-up carnivals while they rolled their eyes.

“Just 3 years ago in Iowa, the roof came loose and injured 5 people.  A 12 year old girl lost her arm.”

They laughed.  “Freddy, if you’re scared, just say so.  You don’t have to make up injury statistics.”

Frederick was scared, but he didn’t want to admit it.  It was just last week that he had made the varsity football team as a sophomore; he would be the starting running back and safety on a team that had made the state championship the last two seasons.  He couldn’t very well have his new teammates see him jump at the sight of a dirty bedsheet on a stick emerging from the darkness.

Eventually he realized he wouldn’t be able to talk his way out of it.  He looked at Chet – the starting quarterback – in the eye and gave a slight nod.

“Alright!  Freddy’s in.  Quick, let’s go in before he remembers about the guy who was paralyzed by a prop gone wild in Arkansas.”  They laughed.

Frederick took one last look around the carnival yard.  It would be moving on the next day, so it was pretty empty.  He thought maybe he would see someone in dire need of help somewhere and could heroically rush off to help them.  “Sorry guys.  Can’t go in there; my fellow man needs me.”  But there were no damsels or lads in distress, so Frederick turned towards the haunted house and shuffled up the steps.

The opening featured a cartoonishly large mouth with vampire teeth, lips curled back in a grotesque laugh.  The eyes above were red and wild.  Frederick gave a short laugh at the ridiculousness of it all.

His laugh brought the attention of the door attendant.  He was an old man, sitting on a stool so tall his legs didn’t quite reach the floor.  His body was hunched over, as if his necklace weighed 500 pounds.  His terrible comb-over was covered with a ratty top hat.

“You find this funny?  Perhaps you won’t be laughing when you exit.  If you exit.”  His laugh was harsh and uncomfortable.  Frederick gave the man a quick, sidelong glance before hesitantly pushing his way through the black curtain that marked the entrance.  The man’s laugh seemed to get louder as he stepped through, as if it were echoing off every wall.

The entrance was a dark, narrow hallway.  The walls were tight; Frederick barely had enough room to pass through with his broad shoulders.  On the few occasions where he made contact, they gently swayed, as if they were nothing more than cardboard.  He attempted to look more closely at them, but he couldn’t make out much in the dark.

Frederick looked down and realized that he couldn’t see past his knees.  “Smoke machine must be working overtime,” he said nervously.  He looked for his teammates and saw they were already 20 feet ahead of him.  He sped up his step to catch up with them.  Once he was back in their presence, he began to calm down, and the laugh of the old man finally seemed to dissipate, swept away with the smoke.

The entrance hallway turned to the right and widened, revealing many alcoves lining the walls, filled with the most frightening costumes Wal-Mart had to offer for less than $30.  A rubber witch mask and flowing black bedsheet shot out, while a cackling laugh playing over the speakers.  Frederick startled, but not enough for anyone to notice.  “I can do this,” he thought.

The laughter of the others made it easier to deal with.  He found it difficult to be scared while the rest of the guys were poking fun at every scare.  Watching them laugh and pretend to punch the masked killers in bathrobes put Frederick at ease.  One subject in particular drew a lot of laughs: a two-foot doll with long dark hair covering her face and bright red paint splattering her white dress.  A metal arm was attached to the back of her neck, cocking her head ever-so-slightly from side to side.  But it was turning a bit too hard and the head had popped off.  The hair had also uncovered her face, revealing the surprisingly uncreepy face of a mid-80s Cabbage Patch Doll.  Frederick was starting to feel pretty good, so he stopped for a few moments to inspect the doll.

He dwelled on it for longer than he meant to, and when he looked up he found himself alone.  Someone must have turned up the smoke machine, because it was now up to his chest.  “Hello?”  There wasn’t even an echo.  “You guys there?”  He heard laughing up ahead but he was determined not to run.  He was having a good time; the last thing he wanted was for panic and fear to come creeping back.

He walked to the end of the hallway and stopped, listening.  He heard laughter, but it seemed further away.  He was getting ready to jog up to the next turn, but something to his left caught his eye.  It was the same doll he saw earlier, right down to the blood splatter pattern.  Frederick laughed.  “Must have found a deal.”  He briefly laughed at himself for being scared to enter such a cheaply thrown together haunted house. He was about to turn when he saw movement from behind the doll.  A figure dressed head-to-toe in black emerged from the wall holding a long, curved blade.  Frederick was able to get out one strangled yelp before he felt the blade enter his throat.  The figure dragged Frederick’s kicking body through a gap in the wall.

Frederick’s teammates waited outside the haunted house.  “You think he’s still in there?  Probably got scared by a rubber cockroach or something.  YO FREDDY!  YOU COMING?  I’m going back in.”
Chet’s phone buzzed.

– not feeling well. left thru front door. c u tmrw

“Freddy,” Chet reported to the group, pointing at his phone.  “Must have got spooked.  Already took off.”

As they walked away, they heard the old man say, “Have a pleasant evening.”  His laugh echoed into the night.

7 True Crime Novels to Inspire Your Next Horror Story

“Based on true events.” Four little words that have the power to heighten tension before the story even begins. Heinous crimes have long served as inspiration for genre writers, giving us works such as Room (based upon the Fritzl case), We Need To Talk About Kevin (inspired by the Columbine massacre), and The Night of the Hunter (drawn from the Lonely Hearts murders).

In order to explore the beast within man, we need look no further than notorious cases of the past. From mass murderers to demented appetites, the ugliness of the human race is a deep well, one that can be drawn from for creative fodder. The following is a roundup of non-fiction books chronicling the accounts of real-life atrocities, disappearances and unsolved deaths. Truth may be stranger than fiction, but it can also inspire it.


True Crime Novels To Inspire Your Next Horror Story - Helter Skelter 1. Helter Skelter, by Vincent Bugliosi: The former lead prosecutor in the Manson Family case, Vincent Bugliosi, provides an in-depth account of what went down in the summer of 1969. Bugliosi brings the Manson cult to life in just under 700 pages, providing character motives and a play-by-play of the trial that put you in the courtroom along with him. Juxtapositions of law and order against savage human nature give us incredible commentary on how far we’ve come as a society, and how much further we have to go.



True Crime Novels To Inspire Your Next Horror Story - Columbine 2. Columbine, by Dave Cullen: On April 20, 1999, a Colorado high school (and America, by extension) was rocked by a devastating act of violence, committed by two disturbed young men. For the next decade, author Dave Cullen remained in the area as he attempted to make sense of the senseless tragedy. In an extremely unsettling account of the events of the Columbine massacre, Cullen puts us in the classrooms with the students, hiding behind upturned desks and waiting in fear as the shooters roamed the hallways, looking for their next victim. If you’ve never felt true terror, this book provides insight into that experience.


True Crime Novels To Inspire Your Next Horror Story - For The Thrill Of It 3. For the Thrill of It, by Simon Baatz: Have you ever seen Hitchcock’s “Rope”? That story of two wealthy young men who kill a fellow student just for kicks was inspired by the chilling case of Leopold and Loeb. In 1924, Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb, two graduate students from wealthy families, kidnapped and murdered a 14-year-old boy. Experts commented that the two were a toxic pair, and each would have been fairly harmless on his own. Once they put their heads together, though, they were a callous and devious duo. Does your work in progress have a killer couple? Try this book out.


True Crime Novels To Inspire Your Next Horror Story - The Crime of the Century Richard Speck 4. The Crime of the Century: Richard Speck and the Murders That Shocked a Nation, by Dennis L. Breo and William J. Martin: In the dead of night on July 13th, 1966, one of the most horrific crimes of the twentieth century unfolded. This book mostly focuses on the police procedures and court proceedings during Richard Speck’s capture and subsequent trial. Together, the authors give a gut-wrenching account of how Speck murdered eight young nurses one-by-one over a period of four hours, and how law enforcement handled the massive manhunt that followed. This story is a display of the harsh fact that for many victims of violent crime, the nightmare doesn’t end when the perpetrator walks away. Catching and convicting the bad guys is a whole new ballgame.


True Crime Novels To Inspire Your Next Horror Story - The Stranger Beside Me 5. The Stranger Beside Me, by Ann Rule: True crime author Ann Rule was contracted to write a book about an (at the time) unknown serial killer. It was revealed that the man she was writing about, the man who had dispatched at least 30 women, was a man she not only knew, but had served with at a crisis center. Ann regarded Ted Bundy as an intimate, trusted friend and struggled with the reconciliation of that image with that of the man who stood accused of so many vicious murders. This book provides a keen look into the incredibly human charisma that some of the most inhuman monsters exude.



True Crime Novels To Inspire Your Next Horror Story - Cannibal: The Maneater of Rotenburg 6. Cannibal: The True Story Behind the Maneater of Rotenberg, by Lois Jones: Imagine a Hansel and Gretel fairy tale, but with a willing victim. This extreme story introduces us to Armin Miewes, a man who has an odd fetish: he wants to slaughter and eat another human being. He meets a man online who has a complementary fetish: he wants to be slaughtered and eaten by another human being. The subsequent “dinner date” and trial are described in riveting detail (NOT for the faint of heart). Cannibal is a shrewd investigation into the nature and nuture of an unbalanced human.



True Crime Stories To Inspire Your Next Horror Story - In Cold Blood 7. In Cold Blood, by Truman Capote: 1959. Holcomb, Kansas. All four members of the Clutter family were roused from their sleep at an ungodly hour and bound. All four were shot in the head with a shotgun at close range. None survived. The killers left few clues, and there was no apparent motive for the slayings. No true crime list is complete without a nod to the classic “nonfiction novel”. In Cold Blood’s glory lies in its treatment of the subjects and its mastery of the English language. The mesmerizing prose brings the reader directly into the lives of both the prosperous Clutter family, and the feckless drifters that murdered them on a chilly fall night in 1959. If you read only one book in this roundup, let it be this one.



The inability to turn away from the horrific is a global human trait. As long as people commit heinous crimes and others wonder why, we writers will always have a story to tell. The best true crime novels show us the worst of humanity, and the best writers can draw creative inspiration from even the darkest of sources. Have you ever written a story based upon a real incident? Let us know in the comments below.


Cost: Free
Prize: 1 Copy of Scrivener Writing Software, story featured on website,  and feature interview with author
Word Limit: 750 words

Horror Writers Flash Fiction Conteste


Horror Writers is pleased to announce our new Flash Fiction Contest for December 2016. We’re open for submissions in the horror genre, 750 words or less, that push the boundaries and take risks in characterization, plot, and style.

The winner of the contest will receive one copy of the Scrivener Writing Software. In addition, the winner will have their story published on the Horror Writers website, and be featured in an author interview for the site.

Eligibility: The contest is open to entrants 18 years of age and older, worldwide. An entry can only be made by the work’s author. Entries must not have been previously published in print or online, and must be written in English. Any entry within the horror genre is permitted except for erotica and fanfiction. Should your flash fiction win a prize or be published elsewhere, please let us know so that we may remove your entry. Staff members are not eligible for participation. Any work previously submitted to Horror Writers for publication is not eligible if the piece received free edits from our team.

Judging: All submissions will be read by Horror Writers contributor Anya Novak, who will select one winner.

Format Guidelines:  Due to the brief nature of flash fiction, story submissions can be pasted into the body of your email. Maximum length is 750 words, title not included. The subject line will read: Flash Fiction Contest Submission – [Story Title] – [word count]. Before you paste your submission into the email, please include:

1. Your Name (and pen name, if you have one) and preferred email address for contact. This email address will be used to conduct the interview, should your entry be chosen as the winner.

2. A brief author bio to feature on the Horror Writers website with your submission, should your entry be chosen as the winner.

Submissions: Entry is online via email. All entries are to be submitted to We do not accept postal entries.

  1. No major corrections or alterations can be made after entries have been received.
  2. Entry is open from December 2nd – December 20th. The current closing date is Midnight EST 20th December 2016.
  3. Entries are limited to one per author.


  1. The prize for the December Flash Fiction Contest is one copy of Scrivener Writing Software.
  2. The results of the competition will be announced on the Horror Writers website, and on Twitter, on December 22nd, 2016.
  3. Entrants retain copyright. The winning entry will be published on our site, along with an interview with the author.

Entry constitutes acceptance of all Horror Writers December Flash Fiction Contest rules, Terms and Conditions, and Privacy Policies. Entries that fail to comply with rules, terms and conditions, privacy policies and requirements will be disqualified. Judges’ decisions are final.

Full Terms and Conditions can be found by visiting here

Down in the Deep Dark Woods

Thin wooden fingers scratch at your arms.


The scent of green and dirt overpowers you.


It is dark.






Behind you something cries out, echoing around the trees until you no longer know which direction the noise comes from.


You are alone.


You hope.


The woods have always been a common setting in the horror genre. From modern found footage films like ‘The Blair Witch Project’ to the old fairy tales written by the Brothers Grimm, we have been inundated with spooky tales set among the trees. But why are we so afraid of the woods? Why do we go back to it again and again for tales of the sinister and unknown?


Fiction, both film and literature, has taught us many things about forests:


  1. It can be so very easy to become lost in the woods. Trees blur together, paths disappear beneath thick bracken and fallen leaves. If you don’t know what you’re doing, you could end up wandering in circles, frustration leading to panic. This becomes worse when…
  2. You don’t know what else is with you. Just as it’s easy to become lost in the woods, it is also easy to hide within them. Wild animals can be dangerous enough, but what if there is someone else in the woods, hidden behind the trees? We fear the unknown, and there is a huge opportunity for the unknown in a forest.
  3. Forests can make the ‘normal’ sinister. The sound of a snapping twig becomes a pursuer in the dark. A strange animal call transforms itself into a creature you had never considered existing before now. The woods are a magical place, and can make it very easy for you to suspend your disbelief. But why is this?


I believe that every time we read a story, we keep aspects of it in our minds. When we enter the woods, even if we have been there a hundred times before, even if we are surrounded by friends and in no danger at all, we are aware of these dark stories. We step into the trees, and think back to those tales of witches and monsters. We know we are safe, that the stories are just that, but whispered at the back of our consciousness are three little words – “But what if…”


And we are right to think that, because tales of sinister forests are not always limited to fiction.



On 18th April 1943,  four boys were exploring Hagley Woods near Worcestershire, England when they came across a large tree – a wych elm. One of the boys began to climb it, searching for eggs. Instead of eggs, he found a skull.


A human skull.


The discovery sparked a police inquiry, but to this day the victim remains unidentified. The killer unknown. But that was not the end of the story.


In 1944 the words “Who put Bella down the Wych Elm – Hagley Woods” were discovered scrawled onto a wall in Birmingham. In 1999 the 200 year old Wychbury Obelisk was defaced with white paint, “Who put Bella in the Witch Elm” smeared across it. Other versions of the message have appeared throughout the years up to the current day – keeping the mystery fresh in the minds of the public and reminding us of the dangers that can lurk in the woods.


Maybe we are right to be frightened of the forest. Maybe there is something sinister in the woods, lurking just out of sight. Are we sure we are frightened of the woods because we have read too many horror stories? Seen too many films?


Or maybe, just maybe, are we writing these books, making these films, because we know the woods are something to fear? That something hides itself within, waiting for the day you trail off of the forest path. Waiting to creep slowly closer and closer, until you feel warm breath against your neck.


Waiting until it is too late for you to run.