Did you know that the basement of Central Library was once home to a telekinetic brain creature? If you’ve seen the 1987 horror-comedy Mindkiller, you’ll know what we’re talking about. Mindkiller (also known as Mind Killer, Brain Creature, and Transformator) utilized the library as one of its primary filming locations. The film centers around Warren, played by Joe McDonald, a young librarian who discovers a manuscript in the library’s archives that enables him to mentally control his environment and the actions of others. It features some really fun monster makeup and creature effects from Ted Bohus, Vincent J. Guastini, and Patrick Denver (son of Gilligan’s Island star, Bob Denver). Fans of the genre might compare it to other 1980s horror titles with inventive practical effects like Basket Case (1982) or From Beyond (1986). Mindkiller was shot in under two weeks for less than one million dollars.
Mindkiller was released exclusively on home video in January 1988 and licensed to HBO and Cinemax for a one year period. It was also distributed internationally, in places such as Mexico, Portugal, the United Kingdom, Germany, and Japan. Director Michael Kreuger worked quickly and stayed under budget by employing a mostly local cast and crew, many of whom performed several duties on set. For example, veteran Denver filmmaker Sarah Liles served as both the Executive Producer and Line Producer on Mindkiller; roles she reprised on Kreuger’s next two films, Night Vision (1987) and Lone Wolf (1988), which were also filmed in Denver. Shirley Ross, who plays Sandy, studied acting at Colorado State University and had previously appeared in commercials, including one for defunct Denver department store, Joslins. Kevin Hart, who played Brad, was a familiar face on the Denver theater scene before this, his first feature film. And no, he’s a different actor than the more well known comedian/actor of the same name.
It’s always interesting to see Denver portrayed on screen and as far as we know, Mindkiller is the first and only time Denver’s Central Library has been showcased in a feature film. It’s a fun, low budget horror movie with several entertaining and memorable moments, like when Warren’s nerdy coworker Larry, adeptly played by Wade Kelley, lets loose his best wolf howl, seemingly from nowhere, or the scenes in the noisy nightclub caricature, “Swingles.” Seeing a mutated monster-man stalking the darkened, labyrinthine, basement stacks brimming with faded manuscripts, is actually quite effective and perfectly fits the film’s science fiction/horror concept.
While the basement of Central Library might not contain a dripping, practical effects-driven, brain monster (anymore), it does house part of the library’s extensive Western History and Genealogy archives, including several interesting artifacts related to the film. For example, the Larry Patchett papers contain an original shooting script, an invitation to the film’s premiere, and promotional materials, donated by the Emmy Award winning Producer and Sound Designer.
If you’d like to read more about the film’s production, several articles originally appeared in the Rocky Mountain News and Denver Post. These can be viewed at the Central Library in the Western History and Genealogy department, which owns a complete run of the Rocky Mountain News and older issues of the Denver Post on microfilm.
As of this writing, Mindkiller and director Michael Kreuger’s other three credited films are all currently viewable online, for free, through Tubi. If R-rated horror films aren’t your thing, you can still visit the Western History and Genealogy department’s archives online and in-person at Central Library. Who knows what you may find?
Brainy film's special effects pay off, Rocky Mountain News, February 8, 1987, 1-E
Denver film company heads for homes, Denver Post, February 11, 1987, 1B
Larry Patchett papers, C MSS WH1675