It’s no secret that the internet has altered the way children become adults in some massive ways. Not just the fact that your exposed to god-knows-what earlier than ever before, but the constant need to define and curate yourself for an unforgiving audience of everyone is recognized as a key driver of depression. The new found-footage screamer Mind Body Spirit, which we screened as part of the Chattanooga Film Festival this year, reminds us of this concern. In their feature debut, directors Alex Henes & Matthew Merenda go to great lengths to create a film that is sensitive to the struggle of the young to find self, but still allows jabs at the culture that makes those struggles so pronounced.
Mind Body Spirit is titled after the upstart video series of our lead protagonist Anya (Sarah J. Bartholomew). She’s a yoga instructor who is pivoting to online instruction and video blogging from her inheritance; her late grandmother’s California home. The footage is largely presented as unedited, so we immediately get the sense that the wide smile of the instructor is a mask concealing a woman who is largely aimless otherwise.
As she goes about filming, she discovers that her grandmother had no short amount of secrets… secret rooms, secret stockpiles, and a secret book addressed to Anya. She becomes obsessed with the book, thinking of it as ‘her heritage,’ a huge boon to someone seeking a sense of individuality. Despite the incredible number of red flags, she begins performing a list of ritualistic tasks for her video blog.
The film’s lead Sarah J Bartholomew does a wonderful job expressing her desperate need to find meaning in this process, but as viewers it’s no secret how malevolent this all actually is. We’re privy to quite a few apparitions early on, and as things progress, they only become more obviously caustic.
This film makes terrific use of a small bottle of a set, somehow not feeling too terribly repetitive in it’s many back-and-forths from one of its 4 or so rooms. Anya’s defiant naivete is a core premise but it also can be frustrating for viewers, as she does cross through caution signs every step of this process with little concern. Fortunately, these frustrations do not inhibit what is ultimately a fun good time watching the spooky happenings as they unfold.
All in all Mind Body Spirit isn’t as biting in its commentary as I might have liked. But it does well enough with it’s great performances, strong use of setting and well conceived found footage approach that ultimately it’s an enjoyably demented tale that’s well worth your time.