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Netflix’s ‘Hypnotic’ Might Put You To Sleep (Literally)

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This review contains spoilers for “Hypnotic”

Adding onto its long line of gripping original films, Netflix dropped its latest American thriller “Hypnotic” on Oct. 27, a film that takes the enigmatic nature of hypnotherapy to greater heights. 

Currently sitting as one of the top 10 trending films on Netflix, the film is graced by the presence of Kate Siegel as the main female protagonist. Siegel has been dubbed as the new “scream queen” due to her impressive contributions to the horror genre, such as starring in her husband Mike Flanagan’s well-known horror film “The Haunting of Hill House” and starring in and co-writing the horror film “Hush.” Joining her is Jason O’Mara, who plays the menacing hypnotherapist Dr. Collin Meade, and Dulé Hill as Detective Rollins. 

The movie centers around an unemployed software engineer named Jenn Thompson (Siegel), who struggles with her mental health after experiencing a miscarriage and breaking up with her fiance. After her friend Gina (Lucie Guest) recommends that Jenn consult with her hypnotherapist Dr. Collin Meade, Jenn takes up the offer and begins hypnotherapy sessions. Although parts of her life are aligning to her desires, Jenn soon uncovers the sinister secrets of her intense sessions with Meade, of which she appears to have no recollection. After experiencing inexplicable blackouts, she enlists the help of Detective Rollins who previously investigated the mysterious deaths of Meade’s past patients, a case that abruptly closed due to lack of evidence. Strangely enough, there is a pattern among Meade’s past victims: they seem to have similar physical appearances to Jenn.  

Photo provided by IMDb

According to psychological consultant Dr. R. Y. Langham, hypnotherapy is “a form of psychotherapy that uses relaxation, extreme concentration, and intense attention to achieve a heightened state of consciousness or mindfulness.” An individual is guided by a professional into a relaxed “trance” that alters one’s state of awareness in order to alleviate a variety of issues, such as psychological distress or phobias. 

Jenn took up hypnotherapy with the intention of lessening her stress levels and healing after her miscarriage. Some of Meade’s past patients went to him to overcome their phobias. This aspect is briefly foreshadowed during the film’s opening scene when a female patient dies from being crushed inside an elevator after frantically answering a call from an unknown number that uttered the ominous words “This is how the world ends.” Except, she was never physically crushed by the elevator. Instead, she was hypnotized into thinking she was being crushed, when in actuality nothing happened. As a result, she died of a heart attack. Oblivious to the public eye, she suffered from a severe case of claustrophobia — an extreme fear of tight, confined spaces. 

However, “Hypnotic” fails to keep viewers at the edge of their seat due to its obvious degree of plot predictability. Within the first five minutes of the film, we are introduced to Meade when he meets Jenn at Gina’s housewarming party. Red flags are made clear not only to Jenn, but to the audience as well, and in a very unsubtle manner. Aside from his seductively cunning tone, Meade’s expensive black-and-white office decor is a clear dead giveaway that his intentions may not be honorable. In contrast to a typical therapist office that evokes comfort and security through its neutral tones and comfy seating, Meade’s sumptuous office resides inside of his modern mansion, which raises eyebrows as to whether he uses the space for another reason besides his practice. 

Although the film reveals its antagonist at the start of the film, “Hypnotic” continues to follow a generic plotline, sticking to Meade as the villain instead of using him as a potential scapegoat for a more powerful and devious villain who could be the true mastermind behind everything, which would have been a more creative and original choice. Besides a brief backstory of how his father taught him hypnotherapy, Meade’s motive was only partially explored when it was revealed that he murdered his female patients in an attempt to replace his wife; though it remains unclear whether she is dead or alive. Directors Matt Angel and Suzanne Coote, as well as writer Richard D’Ovidio, could have further developed their antagonist into an emotionally complex individual who encompasses the human experiences of grief or trauma. The film falls short in its development of Meade’s story, leaving the audience with an insatiable thirst for more character depth, and making “Hypnotic” an unsatisfactory watch in comparison to Netflix’s other thriller films. 

Regardless, “Hypnotic” is still unique due to its incomparable take on the horrors of hypnotherapy, an element not necessarily present in other thriller films. Despite the negative reputation of hypnotherapy in television and mainstream media, it is gradually being accepted by psychologists worldwide as a tool to reduce pain. As the ongoing debate continues, “Hypnotic” adds onto the conversation about the implications of hypnotherapy if practiced by the wrong hands. 

Annabella Johan is an Entertainment Intern for the fall 2021 quarter. She can be reached at ajohan@uci.edu.