A little-seen slasher directed by
LAST HOUSE ON DEAD END STREET’S late
Roger Watkins. Quite simply: it’s NOT a good movie.
This low budgeter, filmed under the pseudonym “Bernard
Travis,” was Roger Watkins’ second and last non-porno feature. Watkins
was said to have hated porn, yet he spent a decade making XXX films,
starting with 1979’s HER NAME WAS LISA and concluding with 1988’s
DECADENCE. That SHADOWS OF THE MIND got lost in the shuffle seems
entirely understandable given the film’s non-qualities.
The naive young Elise molders is severely traumatized
by her parents’ untimely demise. Her overly trusting shrink Robert
elects to have Elise released from the asylum where she’s spent much of
her adult life. She moves back to her parents’ country home, where she’s
visited by her asshole stepbrother Leland. He’s desperate to have Elise
re-committed but Robert won’t hear of it. Then a new problem presents
itself when the burly house gardener Andrew is dispatched by an unseen
psycho via a scythe blade through the neck.
Elise is quite nonplussed when Robert turns up for a
dinner party with his slutty girlfriend Diana in tow--Elise, after all,
is attracted to Robert, and the presence of Diana makes her jealous. The
dinner, which takes place amid a rainstorm, is awkward and unpleasant,
and the situation is worsened when Robert and Diana are obliged to stay
the night after their car breaks down.
The trouble starts when Elise spies Robert and Diana
having sex. She responds by going into a psychotic funk and killing
Leland via a sharp object in his eye. Next she stabs Robert and then
burns Diana to death on the front lawn. This alerts the fire department,
and lands Elise back in the asylum. Here she confronts the ugly reality
of her parents’ death: she killed them.
Roger Watkins’ touch in SHADOWS OF THE MIND is evident
in the all-too-noticeable low budget production values and overall
atmosphere of ugliness and despair. Few other directors have ever
conveyed a sense of such total annihilation, and had Watkins’ career
developed in proper fashion I’m certain he’d have become one of
America’s top purveyors of cinematic grunge. Sadly that wasn’t to be,
leaving us stuck with so-so fare like the present film, which lacks the
style and resourcefulness of Watkins’ signature film LAST HOUSE ON DEAD
There are some striking visuals here, such as a
climactic stalk through a darkened hallway, but they’re few and far
between. From an aural standpoint the constant audio flashbacks are
vastly overused (there’s one seemingly every few seconds), and the
flute(!) based music score is horrendous. The Brooklyn accented Marion
Joyce, who also wrote the screenplay (and whose only film credit this
is), isn’t very strong in the lead role, wavering between catatonia and
overwrought fits of insanity. None of the supporting cast members are
terribly impressive, either.
The splatter also falls flat, done in a manner that
even by early eighties standards is hopelessly cut-rate, with close-ups
of hands wielding sharp objects followed by shots of the (supposed)
victims with the objects stuck in them. Clearly, for those interested in
early eighties slasher cinema or the output of Roger Watkins, SHADOWS OF
THE MIND is not the place to start. In fact, it probably shouldn’t be
bothered with at all.
SHADOWS OF THE MIND
LBS Properties/Production Concepts Ltd.
Director: “Bernard Travis” (Roger Watkins)
Producer: Leo Fenton
Screenplay: Marion Joyce
Cinematography: Domonic Paris
Editing: Arnold Larschan, Roger Watkins
Cast: Marion Joyce, Erik Rolfe, G.E. Barrymore, Bianca Sloane, Anthony
Frank, Don Renshaw, Marcia Watkins, Richard McNichol, Pamela Dawn, Lisa
Susanne, Len Fine, Margaret Smith, Dorothy Klein