Sifting through influencer culture in conjunction with health advice might be horrific enough, but ‘Mind Body Spirit’ takes a ‘Paranormal Activity ‘-found footage stylistic choice and places it within the nightmare of a singular person searching for identity. There’s enough of a pitfall searching for yourself amongst the eyes and the dopamine of an audience—it’s a drug you’ll never seem to get enough of. Alex Henes and Matthew Merenda place this meta-commentary on the many states of wellness channels cleverly within a haunted house nightmare that keeps moving at a pace where the audience is always discovering something new. It’s pretty admirable that this film takes a fixed location and continues finding ways of making it fresh. 

Anya (Sarah J. Bartholomew) is searching for a new lease on life. That urge implores her to move across the country to California inside the house of her recently deceased grandmother, Verasha (Kristi Noory). There, Anya begins her yoga influencer journey with a new video channel to bring peace to her eventual viewers and herself. A tense conversation shows that Anya and her mother, Lenka (Anna Knigge), have a tense relationship, leading to Anya wanting to learn more about her grandmother. For some reason, Lenka and Verasha never clicked, and Lenka kept a considerable distance. All this gets upended when Anya finds a secret door through the bookshelf in her living room. She discovers a pantry full of potions, an altar, and a leather-bound diary addressed to her from her diary that contains a 30-day, four-part ritual called “The Joining.” Anya is elated to find this—as a person searching for some purpose, she’s finally found one. However, if you’ve seen any Evil Dead films, a book written in another language should send off alarm bells. 

Photo Credit: Welcome Villain

One of the more entertaining elements of ‘Mind Body Spirit’ is how it uses its singular camera style to make the few rooms in the plot take place fresh. Most of the cinematography comes from Anya’s point of view when talking to her supposed viewers. But with that fixated point, things will suddenly happen in the background within a split second. Three hundred sixty shots exist that unveil the source of the creeping evil before returning to our conventional story points, and it’s not so jump-scary enough that you grow tired of it. 

Much of the film rests on the shoulders of Bartholomew’s performance, and she does a great job of displaying Anya’s wide variety of emotions. A certain desperation exists within her character, desperately trying to leave an old life that we get pieces of. So, Anya dives into this yoga wellness channel, striving to heal and make a connection to the grandmother she never met. As Mind Body Spirit’ rolls on, a manic desperation sets within Anya that is reminiscent of Toni Collette’s portrayal of Anne in Hereditary in that the emptiness obscures them from backing out of some extremely macabre happenings. ‘Mind Body Spirit’ also has a subplot of influence critique inside the horror it looks to convey, personified within fitness guru extraordinaire Kenzi (Madi Bready). Her character is the antithesis of Anya in the way that Kenzi is entrenched in the superficialness of wellness. It’s all about follower count, and it doesn’t matter if you borrow from cultures you don’t understand; the audience won’t know! 

Their eventual clash is best conveyed concurrently with the descent of madness Anya goes through inside the steps of the ghoulish ritual. The film also has spoof ads that you’ll see occasionally on YouTube, but it sticks out like a sore thumb for a comedic tone that isn’t as present as it would want it to be. Instead, the hypocrisy of claiming authenticity when you don’t know yourself is present within the warring sides of Anya already. The theme works best when the film gets out of the way of explaining itself and allows the story to flow naturally. Complete with sound design that keeps you on edge for everything that goes bump in the old house, ‘Mind Body Spirit’ escapes the conventions of the found footage genre into a unique experience rooted in societal subjects that are still worth digging into.