The psychological thriller is one of cinema’s most reliable and entertaining genres. Characters riddled with mental problems can be the basis for fascinating stories and will certainly keep audiences on their toes. The indie shocker Enter the Dangerous Mind succeeds in continuing the genre’s tropes and it is a film that will probably require a few viewings to sink in and fully appreciate. It stars young Jake Hoffman (son of Dustin Hoffman) and his performance here is not only disturbing but powerfully genuine. Viewers should take note because this is a truly haunting and very well-crafted picture.
Meet Jim Whitman (Hoffman), an introverted dubstep musician with a deeply troubled past. His roommate Jake (Thomas Dekker) is constantly pressuring him to break out of his shell and embrace life. Unfortunately this only exasperates things. While working a temp job, Jim meets beautiful yet awkward Wendy (Nikki Reed) and two quickly start a connection. When an embarrassing sexual encounter sends Jim into a frenzy, all bets are off and everyone involved is soon in serious danger.
Enter the Dangerous Mind is an intense indie thriller that focuses on a character with a psychiatric illness. Though the film resorts to occasional formulaic scares and thrills, it does shine a negative and overdramatized light on mental illness. Since this isn’t a coming of age drama, the filmmakers chose to take the dark path and feature the mentally troubled as a psychopathic killer who seems to be beyond help. This is unfortunate because this only perpetuates the stigma that anyone who is schizophrenic or bi-polar is a violent monster. Through medication and therapy, the character of Jim could have been saved or at least treated.
With Hoffman completely owning this film, his father Dustin must be very proud. His everyman innocence is documented very well in the beginning of the film and one can actually see the family resemblance. Nikki Reed is also quite good as the love interest turned sour. She has a certain realness to her performance and it is really quite refreshing. Scott Bakula also appears as Kevin, Jim’s boss/mentor who apparently knows all about Jim’s sordid past. A very small part from Jason Priestley as a psychiatrist rounds out the cast quite well and the inclusion of these two season actors makes for a somewhat polished production.
Thrillers like Enter the Dangerous Mind are a rarity this day and age. Sure the psychiatric issue is an unfortunate one but the acting and direction in this film are really rather good. Youssef Delara and Victor Teran (Bedrooms, Filly Brown) have opted for dark lighting with lots of muted blues and greens. With the electronic dance music overpowering the soundtrack, one might feel like they’re in a nightclub and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Enter the Dangerous Mind is an experiment in fear and makes you feel both sheer terror and utter sympathy simultaneously. Jim is a tortured soul and his actions are fueled by something he cannot control: his mental illness. He’s not monster, he’s just been dealt an unlucky hand in life.