‘Jagged Mind’ Review – A Time Loop Makes Hulu’s Queer Horror Story Tense and Unique

Kelley Kali’s Jagged Mind is a unique kind of erotic thriller. Not only does the film focus on a lesbian couple, Kali and writer Allyson Morgan broach a subject rarely seen in queer cinema: domestic abuse. The film approaches its weighty topic with urgency and graveness, but the distinct genre elements make everything more digestible.

Much like its basis, Morgan’s short film First Date, Jagged Mind shows the lengths some people will go to to be with the person they love. Or more accurately, the person they are obsessed with. Unlike other thrillers, though, this one features a time loop. The audience is thrown in head first as the main character, Billie (played by Maisie Richardson-Sellers), almost immediately experiences another blackout. Billie is clueless apart from a troubling sense of déjà vu, however viewers will quickly figure out what (or who) is behind this strange malady.

Relationship woes and memory loss plague Billie lately, yet her luck seems to change once she meets Alex (Shannon Woodward). While they seem to be very much in love, something feels off about their romance. Billie experiences these sudden flashes where Alex acts out of character one moment, only for things to go back to normal the next. In these scenes, the film’s sharp editing and abrupt transitions do a lot to communicate Billie’s confusion as well as delay the inevitable.

Classic erotic thrillers would normally be the blueprint for Jagged Mind, but the story fits in better with vintage gaslighters. Of course, this film gets creative when finding a new and unusual way of keeping its victim unaware and vulnerable. Rather than Billie being kept totally in the dark about her significant other’s sinister activities, she is active and gradually informed in spite of her temporal imprisonment. The New Orleans backdrop is also no coincidence; there is an otherworldly component that helps the film stick out from the crowd.

A traditional sense of mystery is difficult to achieve with this type of story, although Jagged Mind is less about the puzzle and more about the puzzle solver. This film, while indeed plot driven, works in suitable studies of its two lead characters. Both Billie and Alex are relatively complex and flawed, with neither one being entirely one half of the hero-villain dichotomy. Woodward’s character is particularly complicated and never just a one-dimensional seducer turned enemy. Her methods are misguided, yes, but the audience can still understand her motivation on a basic level.

Even though the timeline in Jagged Mind is intentionally messy, everything else is straightforward. There is not a lot to interpret when all is said and done. This whole film is, after all, an unmistakable and persistent metaphor about abusive relationships. Nevertheless, the film is often compelling and tense, the two leads deliver strong and vulnerable performances, and the outcome is rewarding. Supporters of queer filmmaking will be enthused to see not only a new genre story where the central conflict has nothing to do with sexuality issues, and the characters are layered and imperfect.

Jagged Mind will be available for streaming on Hulu starting on June 15.

3 skulls out of 5

Jagged Mind

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