Slashers follow some rules and patterns, that some audiences grow to love, others, unfortunately, grow to expect. Typically, it is some helpless teenagers, whose main task is to convince a sceptical authority that a murderer is on the loose and to stop them. In 2004, a novel twist turned those sceptical hunters into the very prey they are supposed to protect, in the chilling story of Mindhunters.
Mindhunters is a training division of Quantico’s finest recruits, that use realistic situations to train their skills based on real-life cases. Spurred on by the pressure to be the best, their mentor Jake Harris has the ultimate test for them. Onega, a deserted island, used for mock military wargames and the location for their final exam, isolated from civilization, only the crew and the fictional Puppeteer. However, things get a little more realistic for comfort as a booby-trap kills one of the recruits, and their mentor is nowhere to be found. With the only escape route sabotaged, they are alone with a vicious murderer on the loose. Paranoia is rampant, as the killer could be any one of them, and the victims keep coming from their ranks, can the recruits eventually solve their own case?
The film’s greatest strength is combining its victims with the role of the authoritative investigators, the only authority capable of dealing with this murder, They are supposed to be the best, are just as helpless. We do know they are all equally matched and were gunning for each other long before this whole incident started. The rivalry between the trainees adds tension as the culprit is likely one of their party and knows how to get to them. The killer is more than prepared, managing to keep a consistent theme to their kills, armed with an arsenal of booby-traps, and a traditional arrogance, making them the perfect mastermind for this occasion.
The wildcard of LL Cool J’s character and his backstory adds an extra kick to an already fiery combination; sent to investigate the mysterious and smug Jake Harris (played by Val Kilmer) and the methods he uses to train. The students consist of some familiar names, such as Christian Slater, Patricia Velásquez, and Jonny Lee Miller. The atmosphere in Mindhunters is ample and is particularly helped by the scenery. On the abandoned island of Omega, the fully mocked-up town is unsettling enough, but countered with the imposing militaristic structures and corridors gives Mindhunters a lively canvas to play with. The film’s introduction also full of atmosphere, looking like it came straight out of a horror film, informing audiences with what to expect down the road.
The combination of slasher thriller and F.B.I. profiling is ingenious, as Mindhunter brings the best out of both in a way that keeps you on your toes, leading to an especially tense crescendo towards the end. Mindhunters is of its time but came a little later than the bumper crop of psychological thrillers and slasher films that were popular around the time. It feels unique enough, that those catching it today will enjoy the twist and turns while taking in the scenery, the good cast, and the killer’s twisted modus operandi. As such, Mindhunters is anything but a cold case.
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