Tag Archives: Topher Hendricks

Endure What Cannot Be Cured

Mind Body Spirit

by Hope Madden

There is something clever underlying directors Alex Henes and Matthew Merenda’s first feature, Mind Body Spirit.

Anya (Sarah J. Bartholomew) is sharing videos of her journey to wellness. She’s just moved cross country into the home her departed grandmother Verasha left her. She never knew her grandmother, but she sees this as an opportunity for a new life.

Her only friend on this side of the country—wellness influencer Kenzi (Madi Bready)—stops by occasionally to check in and collab on videos. But she can’t really get behind Anya’s new direction, taken from a hand-written book left by the deceased and written mostly in Russian.

Mind Body Spirit has a bit more compassion for influencers than most horror films do. Though the tale mines the cultural appropriation and blissful ignorance that is easy to find among influencers—particularly those peddling wellness—the depiction is not entirely one sided.

Bartholomew’s performance is endlessly vulnerable and empathetic, but even rushed and cynical Kenzi gets a nice arc that deepens the impact of the film’s horror. Because naturally, naïve Anya misinterprets the underlying message in the tome her departed grandmother left her.

The directors also write, along with Topher Hendricks, and their script sometimes dances with language, toying with the way mystical turns of phrase can easily be used, depending on inflection, to terrify.

Shot in one location with a total cast of 4 (one of whom appears exclusively via FaceTime), Mind Body Spirit rarely gives evidence of its budget. The found footage approach is sometimes fresh—the ads between video segments are inspired—but like most films of the genre, there is no integrity to the actual footage: who shot it, who edited it, why and how it got posted, etc.

More problematic is the occasional blood gag. Outright horror is included sparingly, but when it is, the unreality of the gag is pretty evident. The filmmakers don’t really tread any new ground, either. They just pull in social media as a slightly askew way to tell the same story you’ve seen a number of times.

Nonetheless, Bartholomew shoulders what is at least 75% one-person-show and does it with enough tenderness that Mind Body Spirit never loses your attention.