'Hypnotic'
Source: Netflix

We Suggest You Watch Netflix's New Mind Control Thriller, 'Hypnotic'

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Oct. 27 2021, Published 7:57 p.m. ET

Spoiler Alert: This article contains mild spoilers for Netflix's Hypnotic.

Have you ever gone to see a hypnotist live and thought to yourself, "I can't be hypnotized," only to be told after the show that you were on stage acting like a chicken playing tic-tac-toe? Netflix's new horror-thriller explores the power of suggestion as it pertains to a very bad therapist. It also briefly touches on a more sinister side of mind control, one that was started by the CIA, Project MKUltra. So, what is Project MKUltra?

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What is Project MKUltra?

On April 13, 1953, Project MKUltra was officially approved by Allen Welsh Dulles, who was the director of the CIA at the time. The initiative itself lasted until 1973 and was actually comprised of several projects. It was the height of the Cold War, and Dulles was terrified that Soviet, Chinese, and North Korean agents were brainwashing U.S. prisoners of war in Korea.

Allen Welsh Dulles
Source: Getty Images

Allen Welsh Dulles

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His solution was to fund a program that would develop techniques using LSD and other drugs, which would control human behavior. Over 150 human experiments took place using electroshock therapy, paralytics, and, of course, psychedelic drugs. Sometimes people were aware of their involvement, but oftentimes they had no idea. The program really took shape when Dulles brought in Sidney Gottlieb, a chemist with a deep belief in mysticism, who was behind years of cruel experiments.

In 1974, a story published in the New York Times by journalist Seymour Hersh outlined how the CIA conducted non-consensual drug experiments using human test subjects. This led to President Gerald Ford establishing the United States President’s Commission on CIA Activities. In 1976, Ford handed down an Executive Order that prohibited experimentation with drugs on human subjects without their consent.

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Harold Wilson, Gerald Ford, Valery Giscard D'Estaing, Helmut Schmidt
Source: Getty Images

Harold Wilson, Gerald Ford, Valery Giscard d'Estaing, Helmut Schmidt

How does Project MKUltra play into 'Hypnotic'?

The movie centers around Jenn (Kate Siegel), who, because she recently lived through a traumatic event, decided to seek out therapy. Her new therapist, Dr. Meade (Jason O'Mara), immediately suggests she try being hypnotized during their very first session. By the way, a good therapist would not do that.

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Soon Jenn is losing time and suffering from bizarre dreams. As her suspicions about her new doctor grow, she starts digging into his past, only to discover he has had a slew of accusations made against him. His techniques are compared to those of the so-called scientists in Project MKULtra, particularly the part where Jenn did not give permission to participate as fully as she does.

Dr. Meade 'Hypnotic'
Source: Netflix
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Unfortunately what ends up happening is Jenn becomes so susceptible to his power of suggestion that Dr. Meade is able to control her with a single word. This feeling of being utterly helpless, of having no control over your own body, no agency, is exactly what was happening to the unwilling participants of Project MKUltra, and while a backdrop of therapy is kind of in poor test, it sends the same message about consent.

The movie is still a very fun watch with far too many twists to keep track of. It certainly smacks of a somehow lighter, less politically-motivated, Manchurian Candidate. Plus, Kate Siegel is really watchable and performs so believably you find yourself wondering if you're somehow under some sort of mind control.

Hypnotic is currently streaming on Netflix.

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