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‘Murderous Trance’ review: Can a person be hypnotized to act against their morals?

Mind games.

Murderous Trance is based on a unique true story. The psychological thriller is about  a case from Denmark in the 1950s. It is the only known instance when a court was able to prove a hypnotizer guilty and sentence them to for crimes committed by someone else. The film is about Detective Anders Olsen’s attempts to solve a bank robbery. The robber fled the scene and shot two people. He says he acted alone, but witnesses say he looked like he was under a trance. 

The premise is a unique one. Manipulative villains in stories is not a new idea. The idea of brainwashing someone is a fairly common one, though it is usually reserved for science fiction and spy thrillers. Murderous Trance takes a different approach. Yes, there is a charismatic bad guy (Bjorn Schouw Nielsen), but it is grounded in reality. 

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This adds an element of fear not normally found in these scenarios. Instead of the audience simply thinking, “Wow, that is evil” Murderous Trance opens up questions. Can a person be hypnotized to act against their own morals? And if so, to what extent will they go? It is unthinkable and frightening. The film does a great job of leaning into this panic.

'Murderous Trance' review: Can a person be hypnotized to act against their morals?

Murderous Trance also adds an element of drama to the story. As Olsen is drawn deeper into the case, his wife is befriended by Nielsen. This part of the film is less interesting due to how commonplace it is in thrillers. It is not because it is bad, it is more about the main story being so unique. The strong performances and interesting circumstances help the sub plot work.

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the finale. A story like this one can only conclude with a huge plot twist. Murderous Trance does not disappoint on that front, but the actual development leaves much to be desired. Not only is it predictable, but unlike the rest of the film which will leave audiences wondering what is truth and fiction, it comes off as completely contrived.

Murderous Trance is one of the most interesting ideas for a thriller in years. It sounds silly, but it is based on true events. The story will keep fans guessing while the lines between fact and fiction are blurred. The entire film is filled with suspense and Nielsen is a great villain. The ending is a bit of a mess, but does not ruin the enjoyment of the rest of the film.

Murderous Trance will be available on DVD, Blu-Ray, digital HD, cable, and satellite platforms February 9.

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