Mindhack: #savetheworld [Mad Genius] (2017)

I’m always on the lookout for something weird when it comes to movies.

And believe me, I found it when I watched Mad Genius.

I mean, this is a movie which is seriously strange on so many different levels.  More than you can imagine.  And it isn’t even about what you think it is.

Vix wants to destroy the world.

After all, it’s a horrible place right now, and the only way you can possibly make anything better is to destroy it all.

But even that isn’t enough, so we are also going to have to reprogram mankind while we’re at it, create an all new type of human being with the evil programmed out of him.

After all, the brain is just a big computer, right?  And a genius hacker (and political activist.  and youtuber) like Mason (the real person behind the fox mask of Vix) should be able to find all the problems with our code and rewrite us.

But Mason is having a lot of trouble finding the right algorithm — and even more trouble with his sarcastic and nihilistic friend Finn.

The only problem is that Finn doesn’t actually exist.  In fact, he’s just a second personality, hidden deep within Mason’s brain, although he sees and talks to him all the time.

Far more dangerous, however, is Eden, a sadistic killer obsessed with using Mason’s technology to take over the world.  He stole the headset Mason needs from one of Mason’s friends and murdered her (or did he?).  Now Mason plans to steal it back and hack his own brain.

However, even Mason isn’t sure how much of all this is real and how much is fantasy.

But maybe Sawyer, the nice girl who moved in next door, will help keep him focused on the real world…

No summary I can give you will give you any notion of just how bizarre this film really is.  This is the most Cyber of all the cyberpunk films I’ve seen, one which presents us with a radical, grungy fringe of hackers, drop outs and low-level criminals, and sets itself up against the recognizable modern online world.  We get a lot of solid data mixed in with all the psychedelic imagery, strange visions, and philosophical speculations, along with a big dose of Mason’s apocalyptic fears and nihilistic dreams of creative destruction.   Mad Genius is unafraid to wander off into strange territory, or engage in some thoroughly ludicrous moments without so much as cracking a smile.

Perhaps the finest moment comes when Mason figures out, with a bit of help from Finn, and even more from Quantum physics, how Finn can enter Eden’s concrete bunker without unlocking its high-tech locks — and then get him inside as well.

It’s one of those scenes which has to be seen to be believed.

It all leads to one of those endings which I normally despise — or does it?  Even though we pierce the clouds of visions, fantasy and madness at the end, it is still far from clear how much of what we’ve seen is real, how much a dream on Mason’s part, and how much of what happened actually took place.

Now this is an independent film, made for very little, but it still looks good and has a professional cast (although you probably won’t recognize too many of them, except perhaps Spencer Locke who has been in a lot of films, including one of my favorites, Detention).  It uses a fair amount of digital help along the way in some very effective ways: these effects look quite good, but, as the director, Royce Gorsuch (although he bills himself as “Vix” onscreen) set his film on location in the real world, there aren’t a lot of them and they’re used effectively.

One of the best visuals in the entire film is the series of fox masks Vix wears: they are distinctive, but at the same time, as they are basically a cut-and-assemble card model, created from a 3-D design based on simple polygons.   It looks a little like an 8-bit videogame character’s head, and is not only distinctive, but we get to see several recolors of it, including some which are lighted or use glowing neon for the edges.

Like a lot of these Independent science fiction films these day, however, I suspect a lot of the less adventurous members of the audience may feel it needed to come with a warning: after all, it’s full of all sorts of wacked out ideas, bizarre settings and characters, psychedelic imagery, unexpected moments which leave you feeling like the ground just dropped out from under you, and an imaginary character who would probably have started Fight Club if someone hadn’t already.

It’s a heady mix and definitely not for everyone.  But if you can stand a healthy dose of weirdness, then it is definitely worth a try.

I just wish I knew where to find the patterns for that fox mask online…

(Watch for free on Tubi)



Check out our new Feature (Updated February 16, 2022):

The Rivets Zone:  The Best SF Movies You’ve Never Seen!



This time featuring a brilliant lost film by Brett Piper…

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