You may sense some cynicism in my article title. The reason is I don’t believe in noble psychics. They don’t exist. Psychics are out for a buck and like any other profession (if you can call pretending to be able read people’s thoughts a profession) there are some that are good at it and some that completely fail. Clint Eastwood has directed a new film called “Hereafter” which from everything I’ve read and seen is propping up the myth of the noble psychic.
Hereafter, according to the latest news, was to be released in December of this year, but has been moved up to October 22nd, probably due to the Halloween season. It has been previewed at a handful of movie festivals including the Toronto International Film Fest and received mixed reviews such as this one from Empire Movies. I believe this may be Eastwood’s first foray into a supernatural genre as I cannot recount any movie that comes close except for Pale Rider (1985) which was filled with allusions to Revelations in The Bible. Pale Rider is one of my all time favorite westerns but it is ambiguous and you could see the supernatural in it if you wanted to or you view it as purely natural western with mystery surrounding it.
Why Clint is choosing to prop up the myth of the noble psychic, I’m not sure? It seems beneath his talents. I will have to reserve final judgment for after I actually view the film. The description of the premise is 3 lives touched by death merge together in the end of the film, but one of the stories focuses on Matt Damon’s character George Lonegan “the reluctant psychic.” Lonegan can apparently touch somebody and communicate with all the people in the afterlife that were once part of this person’s life–hence the title “Hereafter.” Lonegan views his gift as a curse and shies away from any media attention or gain from book rights or selling his services. Yes, I’m sure like the rest of us he rather drudge through a 9-5 ordinary factory job or spend time at an office processing billing errors–gimme a break!
I realize movies and TV are always looking to create the hero figure, but what we know of psychics in real life should inspire at least one or two features that display a fraudulent psychic. Psychics are not noble. They don’t feel cursed, or if they do they have to let everyone know about it for the sake of attention. They use mentalism, tricks employed by magicians who acknowledge they do not have psychic powers. Most of us have some abilities to “read” a person as biology allows us to look at a person’s face and understand their emotions and possibly even what they are thinking. There’s nothing supernatural about it. We also have the ability to “guess.’ If a psychic has to sputter a hundred different phrases for you to pick out the one that applies to you–that’s not supernatural.
I have been impressed to see some satire of psychics on TV, specifically an episode of Law and Order: SVU with Martin Short playing a fraudulent psychic who is also a bit of a psychopath. And then there was a hilarious moment from Two and a Half Men where Alan has a panic attack and then thinks he may be psychic and that his son Jake may need him. Charlie, his brother, hits him hard in the shoulder and says something to the extent, “You didn’t see that coming did you. So much for your psychic abilities.”
Don’t get me wrong, even though I am a Freethunker, I am not opposed to fiction about psychics. One of my favorite horror films by Stephen King is The Dead Zone (1983) because it lays out the consequences of truly being psychic–you would be able to know who will enable an event that could cost millions of lives and therefore it may be your duty to kill that person. The difference between the fakes and this story is that no psychic, unless truly mentally sick, would do such a thing. They do not have enough faith in their abilities as they rely on guesswork and generalities–I sense the murderer left the body where there’s lots of plants and it rains a lot, uh, near the highway next to an old diner.
Maybe Hereafter will be a smarter film than I am “predicting” but I doubt it. Clint Eastwood has even described it as a “chick flick” which leads me to believe it is an extended episode of The Ghost Whisperer. At any rate it has to be better than Peter Jackson’s boring ghost film The Lovely Bones. All my director heroes are failing me…