Minus the definite article, the title Enter The Dangerous Mind functions as an acrostic for “EDM,” itself an abbreviation for Electronic Dance Music. That’s what Jim (Jake Hoffman), a quiet freelance computer guy, makes in his spare time, amassing followers online but not getting out much. The goofy double meaning fits the neo-hippie vibe of EDM, or at least this movie’s depiction of it, complete with trippy slow-motion ingestion of substances and shock cuts to blown-out imagery. Sometimes the movie effectively shows Jim’s interests bleeding into his head, like the way a dog’s fierce bark glitches and distorts into techno noise. For better or worse, Enter The Dangerous Mind comes on looking like it will both romanticize and demonize the EDM subculture, possibly not differentiating one from the other. As it turns out, EDM is a mere soundtrack for what turns out to be a stalker thriller rife with the kind of details that the filmmakers might call “psychological” and that psychologists might call “insultingly stupid.”
The movie plants the seeds of its stupidity early with the introduction of Jake (Thomas Dekker), who appears to be a walking embodiment of the vulgar best friend cliché, constantly needling the main character about getting laid and being a man. The screenplay hints at Jake’s true nature by giving him lines like “the only reason I’m here is to help you,” and probably intends his aggressive ranting as a creepy distortion of a familiar trope. It is. It’s also tediously overwritten in a way that suggests writer and co-director Victor Teran may have enjoyed creating the loud, insistent text more than the subtext it so poorly conceals.
Jake’s encouragements overpower Jim and throw the movie out of balance. Though he’s played by the son of Dustin Hoffman, Jim looks and even acts like a cross between Jason Biggs and Vin Diesel, fusing the social (and, at one point, sexual) awkwardness of the former with the glazed somnambulism of the latter. He nonetheless manages to meet Wendy (Nikki Reed), a fellow EDM enthusiast, while fixing computers for her social-worker boss Kevin (Scott Bakula), and asks her out. When their first date—which consists primarily of Wendy admiring Jim’s sick beats—goes unexpectedly wrong, the movie begins the long march towards its backstory, with plenty of time to consider astute psychological observations like “you can’t help what’s inside of him… no one can.”
That’s true of the movie, too, which doesn’t come up with new ways to dramatize its character’s descent into madness. Though co-director Youssef Delara did special-effects work on a number of Star Trek projects, he and Teran don’t push their visual scheme as Jim and the movie get crazier. The scenes that aren’t shot in a grayish-blue pallor look like a faded Instagram filter, and despite some imitations of flash, the editing rarely gets more ambitious than a few deft match cuts.
When Enter The Dangerous Mind first starts to sag, around the 20-minute mark, its ideas appear better suited for a short subject. After another half-hour, even a short seems like a stretch for this material. By the time Delara and Teran have introduced a whole set of extra characters for the sole purpose of generating cheap climactic peril, Enter The Dangerous Mind turns out to have all the depth of a faux-edgy late-’90s music video. The filmmakers may not have intended to argue that EDM is just gussied up, repainted cultural detritus from almost two decades ago, but that’s about the only insight this movie comes close to making.