If you've watched the new Netflix psychological thriller Hypnotic, then you may have unanswered questions or need some explanations about the ending. Take a deep breath and relax, and listen to my words very carefully. You aren't getting sleepy. You want to know what I think of Netflix's Hypnotic. You want to know if the movie's hypnosis tricks are real. You want to know about sesame allergies. Read on to get your answers! [Warning: Spoilers follow!]
What's the story on this one?
A woman (Kate Siegel) falls under the spell of a malevolent psychoanalyst (Jason O'Mara) who is using hypnosis to nefarious ends. At first the sessions put some much-needed pep in her step, even though she finds it odd that she keeps having memory lapses. But when a reconciliation date with her ex-fiancé ends up with him nearly dead, she joins forces with a detective (who is weirdly eager to share police information) in figuring out what's really going on.
Who will I recognize in this?
Dulé Hill of Psych is the most recognizable face, and he shows up at the 28-minute mark as the world's least professional detective. The star is Kate Siegel from Midnight Mass and The Haunting of Hill House. Her character is wandering through a haze of depression and suggestive hypnosis, and she decides to play this as if she's half-asleep most of the time. The "it's so obvious he's the baddie there must be a twist" (but there isn't) is Jason O'Mara, who was in Terra Nova. Lucie Guest plays our heroine's dumb friend, Jaime M. Callica is her ex-fiancé who spends most of the movie in a coma, and Tanja Dixon-Warren plays a "good" hypnotherapist, and the only one in this entire production who has any charisma, sorry to say. It's the second feature from Matt Angel and Suzanne Coote, who also directed Netflix's The Open House. It's written by Richard D'Ovidio.
OK, so what is the evil doctor trying to accomplish, exactly?
Yeah, it's not all that clear, is it? Okay, so, Dr. Collin Meade (O'Mara) is a false name. His real name is Julian Sullivan, and he learned the art of mind control from his late father who worked with the CIA on Project MKUltra. (There's a really good series on Netflix called Wormwood all about that. Go watch that instead.)
Anyway, Julian cracked up when his wife, Amy, died. Ever since then, he has been using his superhero-level powers of hypnosis to try and find someone who resembles her physically and somehow replace her. It's kinda like Vertigo, but a thousand times more stupid.
How he is able to find Jenn (Siegel) -- a dead ringer for his late wife in the same city who also is in need of a new shrink -- is, I think, just dumb luck.
Why did Dr. Meade want Jenn to kill her allergic-to-sesame ex-fiancé by sending him into anaphylactic shock?
I have absolutely no idea. This movie doesn't really make sense! If I absolutely had to guess, I suppose it was Dr. Meade's way of making sure that his post-hypnotic suggestions and trigger words had truly taken hold. And also, since she still clearly has feelings for her ex, he's getting him out of the way, too.
Who was the woman in the elevator at the beginning?
That was Andrea Bowen, and, yeah, she kinda resembles Jenn, so it's confusing. They both have a vaguely Courteney Cox-thing going on. Bowen was one of Meade's first victims. He implanted trigger phrases in her head to get her to bend to her will, but murdered her via suggestive "quiescence" when he realized she wasn't good enough. She essentially was scared to death.
Wait, is that real?
Well, according to a 2010 article in Psychology Today, it's a little bit real. Severe panic attacks can kill someone, so long as there are other mitigating factors like a heart condition. (Lucky for Dr. Meade, when he decides to scare Jenn's friend Gina to death, she is behind the wheel of a car, and crashes into a tractor-trailer.)
Can softly spoken post-hypnotic trigger words like "sleep" actually send someone crashing to the floor as we see in this movie?
There are a lot of sketchy websites out there that say "yes" but very few legitimate news organizations that corroborate this. Sure, we've all seen magic shows (anyone out there a fan of The Amazing Kreskin?) where a guy goes under, hears a magic word, then starts clucking like a chicken, but the way Hypnotic carries on feels far-fetched to me.
Nevertheless, a paper from the University of Finland, sourced by the legit-looking Science Daily, reads "a hypnotic suggestion can generate true and automatic hallucinations." So maybe Dr. Meade's making Jenn think she was in his office (to throw off the cops) when she was actually in his home is something that could actually happen.
What about the other doctor putting up counter-suggestions, like her brain has a firewall from a '90s hacker movie?
I'm not an expert, but I'm going to say hell no. It does make for a fun moment, I'll confess.
Did you like anything about this movie?
I liked that the doctor's office looked like if an Alienware gaming PC came to life.
And I did, at least at first, like that we in the audience experienced the same loss of time when Jenn went under hypnosis. In every other movie someone goes to sleep we see them with their eyes closed, answering questions. Listening back with Jenn on her surreptitiously iPhone-recorded session once she starts getting suspicious (and learning that he knew he was being recorded!) was a nice touch, too.
What was up with her hair at the end?
I have no idea and neither does my wife. It says "one month later" and her hair goes from short to halfway down her back. It's the fakest-looking wig I've ever seen. Her poor fiancé is still in a sesame oil coma, and she's got this crazy new hairdo.
Do you recommend this movie in any way?
A little bit, yes. It achieves that noble goal of so-bad-it-is-good. It isn't boring and there's a lot to mock. Watch it with friends and loved ones on the couch and talk over it. Everyone involved gets paid either way and they can't hear you, so don't feel bad.
Hypnotic is now on Netflix.