Horror as Hate Crime: Our Review of ‘Hypnotic’ on Netflix

Posted in Netflix, What's Streaming? by - October 27, 2021
Horror as Hate Crime: Our Review of ‘Hypnotic’ on Netflix

There’s a version of a synopsis of Suzanne Coote and Matt Angel’s Hypnotic saying that it’s about Jess Thompson (Kate Siegel), a woman seeking self-improvement. “A woman seeking self improvement” evokes someone who uses candles. That would have either been great horror satire or a mess. But instead it dresses Jess in baggy clothing, which is a valid way of visually shortcutting depression. And that spiral would have made another horror film, decent or otherwise. She eventually starts looking sleeker, but appearances deceive.

Anyway, watching Hypnotic feels like watching a hate crime and not just for its logical inconsistencies, but before we get to that, let yours truly write about its real premise. Jess mourns her broken relationship with a guy named Brian (Jamie M. Callica), the fallout so bad that she’s ‘in between jobs’. They still end up on the same parties together, so one of her friends suggest he go to a hypnotherapist. At first, the hypnotherapist Collin Meade (Jason O’Mara) fixes her problems, but he starts getting too personal suggesting she invite Brian to dinner in her own home.

Jess feeds Brian a salad with sesame oil, which is something she would never do because she knows he’s allergic. Occam’s Razor dictates that she did attempt to kill him subconsciously, but she has a stranger hypothesis – that Collin made her do it via hypnosis, which surprisingly checks. Hypnotic‘s plot basically sounds less like a Netflix horror movie, whatever that is, and more like one of those melodramas that a subscriber can find on Amazon Prime. In fairness, this movie has a semblance of a budget and does its best to justify why it has that budget.

By doing its best I mean that this movie is basically object porn. The camera closes up on Collin’s liquor collection. And it’s not a liquor collection unless he has the proper glasses for each drink. He also plays classical music to compensate for the fact that drinks alone. But maybe he won’t be alone for long, he’s working on it. According to this movie, rich people are bad, which in fairness is something I agree with, and the movie eventually reveals the extent of just how evil he is. Speaking of evil, there’s a scene here that’s a Demme ripoff and it’s too obvious that it can’t pass as homage.

Hypnotic (L-R). Jason O’Mara as Dr. Collin Meade, Kate Siegel as Jenn, in Hypnotic. Cr. Eric Milner/Netflix © 2021

I refer to Hypnotic as a hate crime because of how it fails to incorporate race into its film. Brian is Black and so is her best friend’s Gina (Lucie Guest) husband Scott (Luc Roderique). The same goes for a detective Rollins (Dule Hill) who she and Gina go to to ask questions about Collin. And the only Asian representation her is one of Collin’s clients who stabs Rollins. In fairness, it would have been worse had Collin’s mustache twirling been about killing people in interracial relationships. Deaths and hospitalizations aside, Hypnotic casts its actors like bad TV shows do in a way that both cast people of color as love interests without bringing up race at all.

As someone who has been in interracial relationships, race factors in all the time, and it’s so weird how it barely factors here. It can’t even use the “they’re just people who happen to be racial minorities” argument because of what happens later in the movie. Two Black men end up in a hospital and one dies. This just adds to “the Black guy dies” trope in horror but with much more cringe. Putting Brian in a coma also means that he doesn’t have to process what Jess did, hypnosis or otherwise. Also, there’s a scene here when Rollins’ phone dies. It doesn’t matter if you are a cop or not – charge your phone!

Hypnotic reveals that evil through Jenn. She and Rollins find out more about Collin who, as it turns out, has a mentor who performed hypnotherapy as a part of CIA’s Project MKUltra. Yes, MKUltra actually happened. But incorporating that crime against humanity in this movie feels like screenwriter Richard D’Ovidio listens to some podcasts. Then, they decide to write a movie about what they just listened to.

In finding out about the mentor, Jess goes to that person’s mansion out in the exurbs alone. Depression is real so I’m debating the logic of her having only three real friends. So the only person she shares her plans with is the hospitalized Rollins. Kudos for her to figuring things out but she goes to someone’s lair without real backup like a dummy. And it’s just another example of the movie’s dumb moments overshadowing its brief intelligent ones.

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While Paolo Kagaoan is not taking long walks in shrubbed areas, he occasionally watch movies and write about them. His credentials are as follows: he has a double major in English and Art History. This means that, for example, he will gush at the art direction in the Amityville house and will want to live there, which is a terrible idea because that house has ghosts. Follow him @paolokagaoan on Instagram but not while you're working.
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