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“Mind Body Spirit” Is Lacking

Written by: Adam Vaughn | May 6th, 2024

Mind Body Spirit (Alex Henes/Matthew Merenda, 2023) 2½ out of 5 stars

Namaste, movie goers! A new horror film rolls out this spring, promising to unite the invigorating powers of meditation and yoga with the forces of supernatural evil. In Mind Body Spirit, their feature debut, directors Alex Henes and Matthew Merenda tell the story of an aspiring social-media yoga instructor, Anya (Sarah J. Bartholomew, Look Both Ways), who’s recently moved to L.A, to pursue her dreams. But dark secrets await at her new home, stemming back to old ties to her deceased grandmother, Verasha (Kristi Noory). Will Anya become a viral sensation or the victim of demonic forces?

The answer lies in a narrative that frivolously throws its exposition at the viewer. The overused cinematic trope of finding hidden and deadly objects in the floorboards attempts carries the plot, and sadly Anya’s common sense as a character is nonexistent from the start, leaving much to be desired. Mind Body Spirit also leans heavily on a predictable story premise, leading exactly where expected and not deviating from cliché. And while I enjoyed the new-generation tones of social-media influence for their interesting changes of pace and transitions, these snippets are not enough to cloak the fact that Mind Body Spirit is only going through the motions.

Sarah J. Bartholomew in MIND BODY SPIRIT ©Welcome Villain Films

Where I will give Henes and Merenda credit is in the use of various camera techniques. Just when you think the overused found-footage style has lost its luster, Mind Body Spirit does something truly unusual, where the spirit/demon controls the camera, that creates a genuine and unique sense of terror. I also applaud a truly spectacular moment where Anya has a hallucinatory trip (from ancient herbal tea), which leads to a series of clever editing and cinematography tricks.

But all the production value in the world cannot save a film that falls short of its original idea. The distinctive concept of yoga-meets-horror starts to deteriorate over time. As the film progresses it struggles to determine its central theme: is it a terrifying “what if” regarding the power of meditative practice or the dooming power of heritage and family ties. Both ideas are interesting, yet both ideas compete with each other for dominance. While the film certainly delivers occasional chilling moments, overall the directors tend to abandon their core principles in pursuit of visual imagery that, while effective, cannot alone hold the viewer’s attention.

l-r: Kristi Noory and Sarah J. Bartholomew in MIND BODY SPIRIT ©Welcome Villain Films

Adam Vaughn is a graduate of the Film & Moving Image program at Stevenson University, with a focus in Cinematography and Production. He also has a minor in Theater and Media Performance. Adam works as a freelance photographer and videographer, focusing his craft on creating compelling photographic and cinematic imagery. Adam is excited to join the Film Festival Today team and explore the world of cinema and visual arts.

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