Mind Body Spirit Leads You on a Terrifying Journey of Self-Discovery

Photo courtesy of Welcome Villain Films

I’ve had my eye on Mind Body Spirit for a while now. I first heard about the film when it was making its festival run several months ago, and I thought both the premise and the trailer were pretty intriguing. I really wanted to check this movie out, so when I learned that I’d be able to review it, I jumped at the opportunity. I requested a screener as soon as I could, and now that I’ve finally had the chance to watch the film, I’m happy to report that I was not disappointed.

Mind Body Spirit was written and directed by Alex Henes and Matthew Merenda, and it stars Sarah J. Bartholomew, Madi Bready, and KJ Flahive. In the movie, Anya is an aspiring yoga influencer who recently moved into her deceased grandmother’s old house, and while she’s recording one of her videos, she learns that there was more to the old lady than she ever realized.

She finds a beaten up, almost Necronomicon-esque book in a hidden room, so she does what any self-respecting horror film character would do. She checks it out, and as far as she can tell, the book appears to be a collection of ancient Slavic self-help rituals. In other words, it seems right up her alley, but when the young woman starts to perform these rituals, she unleashes a malevolent force beyond her wildest dreams.

On paper, that might sound a bit generic, and to be frank, it is. Mind Body Spirit is basically a mashup of Hereditary and Paranormal Activity, so it’s not going to win any awards for originality. But don’t let that fool you. Despite its derivative feel, this film is still a pretty fun time, and that’s due entirely to the fantastic execution.

For starters, all of the performances in Mind Body Spirit are completely believable, so this story feels like it’s really happening right in front of your eyes. In particular, I have to give a special mention to Sarah J. Bartholomew. She’s the actress who plays Anya, and while she’s not the only member of this cast, the movie rests almost entirely on her shoulders.

For about 90% of the film’s runtime, it’s just Anya alone in her house. Sure, a few other characters pop up every now and then, but by and large, this is a one-woman show. Anya has to do almost all the emotional heavy lifting, so she goes through the entire gamut, from bubbly and cheerful to dead inside. It’s a tall task, but Sarah J. Bartholomew totally nails it, so I’ll definitely be on the lookout for her name in the future.

On top of that, Mind Body Spirit also has some pretty effective horror. The film features a few cliched jump scares here and there (including the requisite door opening by itself), but for the most part, the frights here are more concerned with creeping you out than anything else. For instance, there are a couple of scenes where we see ghosts standing eerily in rooms or hallways, and there’s even one moment when the shadows on the floor move all by themselves.

Mind Body Spirit poster
Photo courtesy of Welcome Villain Films

But hands down, the most inventive scares here involve the camera. See, Mind Body Spirit is a found-footage movie, and one of the primary rules of this subgenre is that the camera can’t move on its own. However, directors Alex Henes and Matthew Merenda found a really clever way around that limitation. They sometimes have the entity in the house pick the camera up and move it around when Anya isn’t looking, and they manage to make those scenes surprisingly creepy.

All that being said, I also think this film has some very noticeable issues. For starters, I didn’t entirely buy Anya’s enthusiasm about her grandmother’s book. I don’t know about you, but if I found an old book full of occult rituals, I wouldn’t be chomping at the bit to try them out.

To make matters worse, Anya continues performing these rituals even after bad things start happening, and that was just a bit too much for me. As great as Sarah J. Bartholomew was, I couldn’t entirely buy into her character’s obviously unhealthy attachment to the book, so that brought Mind Body Spirit down a few notches for me.

What’s more, this movie also has a handful of in-world commercials randomly inserted into its footage of Anya, and I thought they were completely unnecessary. Granted, they do provide a bit of foreshadowing, and one of them even introduces us to a character who shows up a few scenes later, but despite all that, they still feel intrusive and out of place.

The foreshadowing doesn’t add anything to the story, and we could’ve learned about that new character in a number of other ways, like, say, through a conversation between Anya and her mother. These commercials just took me out of the film a bit every time I saw one, so Mind Body Spirit would’ve been a lot better without them.

But thankfully, as bad as those two flaws are, they’re not nearly enough to ruin the entire experience. The excellent performances and creepy scares still outweigh everything this movie does poorly, so if you’re looking for some good new horror to watch, you might want to give Mind Body Spirit a shot. It’s not one of the year’s best, but it’s still a fun way to spend 80 minutes.

Mind Body Spirit is set to hit VOD on May 7.

Written by JP Nunez

JP Nunez is a lifelong movie fan, and his favorite genres are horror, superheroes, and giant monsters.

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