It's mind over matter if not always material in the chilly creep show "Close Your Eyes," formerly titled "Doctor Sleep" and "Hypnotic."
Goran Visnjic plays Dr. Michael Strother, a hypnotherapist with an unwelcome gift for reading minds. Wracked by guilt over an incident from his shadowy past and newly relocated to London with his family, Michael works off the books weaning smokers of their nicotine jones. Each day he lulls clients into a smoke-free vision of Valhalla that recalls classic Pink Floyd cover art, until one day a spooky girl turns up in a client's vision, turning paradise into hell and kick-starting the plot. What happens? Beats me.
Directed by Nick Willing, who adapted the screenplay with William Brookfield from Madison Smartt Bell's novel "Doctor Sleep," the film weaves together a few genre threads — it's a supernatural thriller with a serial killer — only to work them into an impenetrable knot. Meanwhile there are shivers and a few human touches, weird diversions and weirder characters, including an occult expert played by Paddy Considine, the father from "In America." Visnjic and his chief co-star, Shirley Henderson, the appealing British actress who played the boozing opera singer in "Topsy-Turvy," move through the mysterioso proceedings with tangible seriousness. Visnjic, who recently starred as Spartacus on cable and plays one of the many dashing doctors of "ER," makes seriousness very appealing.
Sometimes a movie's charm materializes where you least expect it and in this particular case it emerges in the unlikely form of Henderson's character, Scotland Yard detective Janet Losey. After a mesmerizing session with Michael, Janet dragoons the hypnotist into helping her with a gruesome case involving child murder and cryptic tattoo art.
A girl who escaped the killer has gone mute and only the smoldering hypnotist can break her silence and solve the Case of the Tattoo Murderer. (Certainly all the queen's men and women can't.) Although Janet tends to behave like a raging, often dangerous idiot, the character earns sympathy because Henderson plays the role with the detached, distracted air of someone who knows she's failing, knows everyone else knows she's failing, and has decided to pretend that everything's OK anyway. Janet's mistakes are so ridiculous it's as if she never learned the elementary rules of police work or watched an episode of "Prime Suspect." (Maybe she's just going through nicotine withdrawal.)
The film's director — whose previous credits include television productions of "Alice in Wonderland" and "Jason and the Argonauts," along with a period oddity called "Photographing Fairies" — is similarly inattentive. Ignoring the usual story nuts and bolts (Does the scene make sense? Why would this character do that?), Willing lavishes his attention on lighting, color and eccentric, at times effectively spooky, details. All this goes a long way to making "Close Your Eyes" consistently, often unpleasantly unsettling, but it doesn't help the story make sense or justify the scene in which a wiggling rat is sewn up inside an even more wiggly human body. That I could have lived without.
'Close Your Eyes'
MPAA rating: R, for violence and language
Times guidelines: Extreme violence, including pierced flesh and implanted rat
Goran Visnjic...Dr. Michael Strother
Shirley Henderson...Janet Losey
Released by First Look Pictures. Director Nick Willing. Writers Willing, William Brookfield. Based on the novel by Madison Smartt Bell. Producer Michele Camarda. Director of photography Peter Sova. Production designer Don Taylor. Editor Niven Howie. Music Simon Boswell. Costume designer Hazel Pethig. Makeup & hair designer Mary Hillman. UK casting Jina Jay. US casting Avy Kaufman. Running time: 1 hour, 43 minutes.
In selected theaters.
'Close Your Eyes'
Nick Willing's "Close Your Eyes" a supernatural thriller with a serial killer to boot succeeds with weird spooking, but not much else.
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