How much innovation do you need from a genre movie for it to feel worthwhile? Your answer to that question is likely to determine your relationship with the Swiss coming of age body horror Blue My Mind. The embarrassment & horror of the changing body during teen pubescence being interpreted through the metaphor of creature feature transformations has been a genre trope going at least as far back as 1957’s I Was a Teenage Werewolf. In more recent years, it’s become an especially common conceit for femme coming of age horror movies, with titles like Raw, Ginger Snaps, Jennifer’s Body, Teeth, and too many others to name establishing a clear narrative pattern for how these stories are told. A young teen girl experiencing her earliest encounters with menstruation & sexual desire finds her appetites extending beyond sex to bloodlust and her body’s changes extending beyond normal pubescent growth to a supernatural horror she finds increasingly difficult to hide or contain. Outside maybe taking the metaphor more deadly-serious than most titles listed above, Blue My Mind is fairly well-behaved in its adherence to the rigid genre structure established by its predecessors, following the exact narrative pattern you’ve been trained to expect. The only variable is discovering which type of beast, exactly, the protagonist is transforming into and how many teenage transgressions she’ll manage to commit along the way. Where it distinguishes itself, then, is in the details of its visual craft & character work, which is often the case with strict genre pictures. Luckily for me, I very much enjoy the femme coming of age transformation horror genre Blue My Mind dutifully participates in and didn’t need many novel details to fall in love with its familiar rhythms & grooves. Your own mileage may vary based on your relationship with the same tropes.
Mia is a 15-year-old wannabe badass who immediately seeks asylum with the rebellious reprobates of her new high school. Her new friends drink, smoke, cut class, shoplift, watch pornography, and flirt with the idea of shedding their virginity. Mia fakes being tough & experienced with these teenage transgressions, barely hiding her anxiety as an undeveloped outsider. This barely concealed social shame is coupled with the shame of her changing body & increasingly monstrous appetites. Coinciding with her first period, the entire lower half of her body launches into open rebellion. At the same time, she finds herself compelled to eat raw, still-live fish directly out of her family’s fish tank (or wherever she can get it). Blue My Mind might not be innovative in the metaphor of its central transformation, but it is ambitious in its comprehensive collection of femme teenage crises. Self-harm, drug experimentation, bulimia, dangerous flirtation with older men, flashes of same sex attraction, and indulgences in petty crime sprees detail the boundary-testing exploits of a teen in crisis of both mind & body. This being primarily a body horror, it’s the crisis of the body that eventually overtakes much of the film’s energy as Mia spins completely out of control, but the movie does take plenty of time to establish conflicts in her personal relationships—particularly with her mother and her best friend—before it focuses on the consequences of her transformation. There are some gruesome moments of self-surgery & festering injury that provide shocking pangs of outright horror, but the transformation at the film’s center is mostly concerned with the grief & helplessness of a rebelling body and unruly hormones forcing physiological changes that cannot be reverted or suppressed.
Following Good Manners, Blue My Mind is the second title I caught at this year’s Overlook Film Fest where revealing the exact nature of its central creature feature transformation might constitute a spoiler, since it’s patiently doled out late into the runtime. Much like how the narrative’s adherence to genre tropes telegraphs exactly where the story is going, it’s clear to the audience exactly what Mia is transforming into long before her body gets here. Again, appreciating the movie as a genre exercise requires an attention to its aesthetic & character-specific details, rather than an examination of where it falls within the larger pubescent body horror picture. The washes of cold aquatic blues, the strained relationships with parents & friends, the freewheeling dance parties set to repetitive synthpop, and the grief of letting go of the body’s original shape against your will all hit with serious emotional impact even if the genre tropes they service are overly familiar. If you’re always a sucker for the femme coming of age transformation horror like I am, Blue My Mind is thoughtful & well-crafted enough to earn its place in the pantheon. If you need to see something innovative or novel in your genre narratives for them to feel at all remarkable, you’re going to have to look much closer to find those flashes in its minute details.