Broadly speaking, there are two types of B-movies. The first kind are endearingly amateurish, where the minute budget is a charming byproduct, not an offputting hindrance, and quite often the proverbial tongue can be found firmly in the proverbial cheek – rubbish, but enjoyably so. The other sort of B-movies are depressingly amateurish, where the tiny budget is painfully, distractingly obvious, and a general self-awareness of the film’s overarching ineptness is notably missing. And it’s just rubbish. Psychosis, out on DVD in the UK July 19th, falls squarely into the latter category.
You know a film is on the wrong track when a key scene involves a scraggly baddie exposing his penis to the heroine, and the film’s tone (and music) suggests we are not supposed to laugh. Let’s face it: full-frontal male genitalia is generally quite funny; here, it is a failed attempt at being shocking and scary, and suitably illustrative of how spectacularly off-the-mark this movie manages to be.
Psychosis is practically unwatchable, a film overwhelmingly without merit on nearly every count. Reg Traviss‘ drab direction makes this straight-to-DVD British slasher makes it very hard to enjoy anything, even ironically. The press notes loftily invoke the influence of Hammer Horror, but in reality this wearily familiar yarn of haunted houses and visions of past murders has more in common with the recent B-movie output from the lower echelons of Hollywood, something churned out of a machine rather than made with thought or care.
There’s just no imagination. From the offset, Traviss trots through the usual horror cliches – P.O.V. shots of the maniac lurking in the bushes, lines of dialogue sounding like they’re from a spoof (“did you hear something?”), a creaky old country house with a dark history… All the same old boxes are ticked. There’s nothing wrong with cliches in a genre movie – as this year’s excellent The House of the Devil can attest – but they should be justified by a little creative spark, severely lacking here.
When a film is this bad, it’s difficult to pinpoint, or single out, the worst element. The meandering script, also penned by Traviss, is wildly directionless, the plot often difficult to follow. A peculiar scene in a sex club, featuring a bizarre and hugely incongruous cameo from ex-lead singer of The Darkness Justin Hawkins, serves no other purpose than to get some more tits on screen, one presumes.
The acting is mixed – fading scream queen and Buffy alumni Charisma Carpenter is fine – fairly ineffectual, but she screams in all the appropriate places. Her supporting co-stars Paul Sculfor and Ricci Hartnett, meanwhile, are awkward and often wooden. Newcomer Sculfor is particuarly reminiscent of daytime television, whilst Hartnett’s attempt at a Yorkshire accent borders on Van Dyke-ian.
Even the lighting is poor; the supposedly haunted house is lit like a supermarket aisle, with only wimpering music and Carpenter’s wails the only cue to suggest that we’re supposed to be getting spooked here. Indeed, the climax is so underwhelming that it’s not immediately obvious it really is the climax until the similarly underwhelming twist is revealed, underwhelmingly.
For a horror film, it’s not remotely scary. That, surely, is as damning indictment as any on a film which should count itself lucky to be consigned to any bargain basement. Don’t waste your time.