One of the lousiest fallbacks for small independent films — especially independent horror films — is “improvisation.” When cast and crew show up on set and riff enough takes to give an editor something to stitch together, it rarely ends up worthwhile. I’ve seen enough of these to feel a little triggered when a film crosses my desk that promises to translate the off-the-cuff energy of its creation into a coherent, entertaining film. After days in an editing room, nobody is as funny, shocking or clever as they think they were on the day. Nobody.
Except Chris Cheeseman and company, I guess.
Mind Leech is a short, sweet 61-minute riff on Roger Corman-style horror flicks from the 1970s. Get this: A strong monster attacks a remote small town, leaving blood and viscera in its wake. You’ve heard the premise before. You’ve seen the premise before. All Cheeseman (who wrote the film and co-directed it with Paul Krysinski) promises is a fun hour of your time, and he delivers with a tongue-in-cheek irreverence dedicated to delivering exactly what the premise promises.
The titular leech is, of course, a goofy-looking special effect. The gore ranges from realistic to silly. The characters, like Deputy Terrika (Steff Ivory Conover) and Sheriff Pailey (Mischa O’Hoski), aren’t memorable in and of themselves but never drag the narrative down between moments of nasty violence. There are very few instances of attempted scene-stealing. They know their place. I once heard an adage about improvising that it usually just means an actor using more swear words. That’s true here, but it’s appropriate: Who wouldn’t say “Oh, fuck!” when their friend is wandering around with a giant psychic leech attached to his neck?
With little time for unnecessary drama, Mind Leech focuses on delivering the genre scares (and giggles) advertised on the box. It won’t change the world, but it’s a worthwhile hour of your time and even made me glad I gave an improvised horror film a chance.