Movie Review: PSYCHOPATHS (2017)

Welcome witches and warlocks,

Today I will be reviewing the horror feature PSYCHOPATHS (2017) by writer/director Mickey Keating. To best describe the story, I will turn to the IMDB plot summary:

“Several psychopaths wreak havoc over the course of a violent night.” 

We open on the ravings of a madman followed soon after by an execution. The juxtaposition of the grainy, black and white, newsreel footage with the modern footage of the same man strapped to the electric chair offers our earliest hints of what to expect from this film stylistically; a classically composed piece with a modern sensibility. This is further backed up by the next scene which shows a thoroughly modern murder just before jumping to a credits crawl which utilizes an old school font.

Now that we have some of the more obvious style choices out of the way, I feel I need to take a moment to talk about the lighting. The use of color in the illumination of this movie brought to mind some of the first colorized crime features of yesteryear which bathed their seedy clubs with neon lighting that beautifully hid the underhanded dealings. The lighting creates such a vibrant sheen that combined with the violence the bloodshed approaches art.

Believe me, there is quite a bit of violence for any who enter here. Near the beginning, the bloodshed is kept out of frame in a truly Hitchcockian fashion, but soon enough we are treated to brutal beatings and torture. Each of these scenes is shown with such visual panache that they transcend run of the mill gore to become almost beautiful. This is the type of violence that does not make one cover their eyes, but instead makes a person want to keep watching in sheer wonder.

From a thematic standpoint, this fits in perfectly with the opening monologue which posits that evil is everywhere, in everyone. The visually arresting nature of this piece is used to captivate the audience from the opening frames all the way through to the finale. As we watch the evil unfolding on the screen, we too are becoming part of the action because we are given into our darker nature just by viewing the feature. It is a neat trick that is never made too explicit, but is hinted at in some of the narration.

To be fair, the story is where the film is at its weakest as there is really not much typing things together. Each of the psychopaths we meet have their own intercut vignettes that make it quite clear that things are happening at around the same time, but beyond that the connections are loose. As the movie began to approach its finale and I began to wonder what the point of all of it was, the narrator even said that maybe there was no meaning behind the events. I found that to be a cute joke, but I could see people wanting more of a point to the psychopath’s night of terror.

I just realized that I have been going on and on about all of these technical features without actually talking about the actors portraying the psychopaths. While I enjoyed seeing Angela Trimbur meeting the high bar she set for herself after Trash Fire (2016), it was Ashley Bell who stole the show. Her portrayal of the schizophrenic Alice was a true tour de force that made her character the most memorable of the psychopaths. This is saying something, too, since each one of the killers has their own particular brand of crazy that makes all of them distinct and engaging.

All in all, this is a visually striking tale with some memorable psychopaths. Though the story might not be the best, it was fun to be able to identify some of the many influences at play. Fans of movies that seem to exist out of time like Pulp Fiction (1994) or those who want to see some distinct killers like those found in The Funhouse Massacre (2015) should definitely give this a look.

PSYCHOPATHS is now available to watch on VOD.

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