Draven Reviews: Instinct by Mathew Mello


Title: Instinct
Artist: Mathew Mello
Producers: Brian Rodgers
Link: http://www.thementalplayground.com/instinct.html
Retail Price: $26.99 USD
Learning Difficulty: Easy
Notes: While a DVD option is available for this product I reviewed the instant download version. Certain characteristics that I included in my DVD reviews, such as DVD Features, Chapter Titles, etc are not available in the down-loadable version of Instinct. The downloaded file plays strait through as a 31 minute video file.

Live performances of Instinct on the Street, Bar, and Magic Shop.
Full tutorial on how to make the props, and perform the effect.
Alternative safe options to the classic nail under cup routine.
Bonus Material: Impulse

Imagine giving the spectator a nail hidden under a paper cup. Now imagine allowing that spectator the option to mix that nail, and cup among three others while your back is turned. The danger mounts as you perform the classic Russian Roulette routine slamming your unharmed hand down upon each empty cup until only the one with the nail remains. Now Imagine doing this almost impromptu. Welcome to Instinct!

Mathew Mello's “Instinct” is a cleaver and brilliant rethink to the classic Russian Roulette effect. His method is simple, clean, easy to master, deceptive, and almost impromptu. I say almost in that so much as you almost always have to bring your own cups along, since most spectators on the streets don't usually have four Styrofoam cups on them at any given time. The major bonus on this is it's portability. This is a great effect that will read as well on a stage as it will in close up. It packs small and plays big, in so much as you only have a need to carry with you cups, and the disk with the nail in it. Oh yes... did I mention that that there's no gimmicks involved? Read this again. There is no gimmicks involved, but you will be able to with 100% accuracy get the right cups every time. Brilliant!

The video doesn't waste much time with filler fluff. It goes strait into three live demonstration sequences. We see Instinct performed for a couple kids inside a magic shop, then again for a couple of girls on the street, and finally for someone in a bar. The places aren't just random selections, but deliberate attempts to illustrate the different venues that are popular with young magicians right now in which this effect is perfectly suited for. My only complaint is that it gets hard to hear Mathew speak at different points while he is on the street or in the bar. I think this is more of a production critique than anything else, but I think for his next video he should consider using a lapel mic.

The tutorial portion of the video is very thorough. Mathew, after giving a strong warning about the inherent dangers of performing a Russian Roulette effect, does a great job of teaching his method, and following it up with an in studio performance. While the teaching is good, yet once again I find myself having issues with the production side of the package. The background is white, and Mathew is wearing a white T-shirt, and light blue button down. The problem is he washes out against the back ground, and so does his Styrofoam cups! Even if this is something that the film crew didn't think of when they filmed it, then certainly it should have been obvious when the footage hit the editing bay. The wash out really hurts the tutorial by distracting you from what Mathew is trying to teach. I wish they would have re-filmed it as opposed to pushing it out instead. Also a minor note to Mathew: Don't say things like “just cut it to this size” when you're talking on camera. Camera's tend to distort one's perspective of size, I'd rather seen a comparison to something that I know the dimension of, or had you give me the dimensions strait up. What I did like was the alternative ideas option included with the video. Mathew goes on to give you additional ideas using the same method that are safer and don't require you to risk injury on a spike.

The bonus material “Impulse” is a great, totally impromptu effect that uses the same principle as “Instinct”, but instead of nails, and cups, it uses borrowed dollar bills. Mathew mentions that he usually uses five dollar bills when he does it, and when you see his suggested patter then that will make more sense. Just like Instinct, Impulse is cleaver and takes full advantage to the natural qualities of the objects being used to boldly fry the minds of the spectators right before their eyes. Unlike Instinct, Impulse is completely impromptu and can be done with borrowed money, leaving you the option of still doing a great effect if you forgot your cups at home.

When I give my product scores below I am measuring them on a scale of 1 to 10. 1 Being absolute the worst score possible, and 10 being the absolute best, making a score of five average. The four points that I grade upon is Product Quality, Teaching Quality, Sound & Video Quality and Over all Quality.

Product Quality: 7
I think the price of the product is fair for what I was able to get for it, and offering an instant download of the product as well as the physical DVD option is a wonderful plus. Both Instinct, and the bonus effect Impulse are very practical, and should slide right into your current working material effortlessly.

Teaching Quality: 7
I think Mathew does a great job teaching the material. He explains it well, he demonstrates it well, and the live performances outline a nice sample of different peoples reactions to his approach on the Russian Roulette routine.

Video & Sound Quality: 4
The sound and video quality were the worst part of this product. As much as I hate to say it, but it feels like a lot of simple, easy to correct, mistakes were made during the production of this video that has lead to an overall feeling of it being sub-professional. There is issues with Mathew being white washed in the tutorial section, and hard to hear during the bar performance. I don't know if new camera's are needed, perhaps better sound equipment, or better editing software, but this is one portion of the product that could certainly use a little more attention.

Over All Quality: 6
I really liked this product. It's cleaver, it's deceptive, it packs small, plays big, and gives the audience a solid visceral reaction of watching something they can perceive as dangerous. It's fairly cheap to acquire the necessary objects to perform it, AND it comes jam packed with alternative ideas, and bonus material. It's good material despite my issues with the sound and video quality. I'd recommend it to anyone interested in adding a Russian Roulette routine to their act.
Sorry for the double post, but I want to add a shameless promotional plug at this time:
For the week of Thanksgiving, and starting tomorrow, I'm being informed by the producers of Instinct, a special offer is being made of $14.95 for the download. From what I've seen with this product I'd say it's a steal.
Aug 31, 2007
I have to say, I've purchased this a few years ago. I'm still using it to this day. It is a closer for me at my gigs I even used it for a talent show my senior year in high school.:D
It's awesome!
It's in Matthew Mello's Modern Mentalism Vol 2 over at PaperCraneMagic :D
Aug 31, 2007
Hey guys,

Just wanted to stop in and say that I'm no longer a part of the mental playground, and due to reasons that must remain private, would appreciate it if anyone interested in Instinct learned it off of the new "Modern Mentalism" dvd's I released through Paper Crane. The dvd includes the original handling of Instinct, plus a bonus idea, and six other great close-up effects.

Here is the link:


Matt Mello
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