As for “Psychic Experiment,” I’d call it — to borrow a line of its mumble-mouthed dialogue — a “massive, pulsating sinkhole.” That mentioned disaster is among the many, many problems at play in the small town of this ill-fated “Experiment,” which also is home to unexplained disappearances, cancerous tumors, body-snatching pods, the release of a child molester, a crispy burning man whose skin looks like when you’ve left the rolls into the oven too long, and a group of intrepid bloggers aching the blow the lid off this thing.
Wait, what thing? Writer/director/editor Mel House takes so long to fill his audience in, he annoys and insults them. There’s a difference between holding your cards until the right moment and just plain shoddy screenwriting; House is the guy who cuts to three different angles during one actress’ uttering of a single, simple sentence, so you can guess whether he’s the ace-in-the-hole gambler or … well, Mel House.
With ponytailed “Phantasm” franchise star Reggie Bannister and B-movie regular Debbie Rochon on hand to lend a semblance of name value, “Psychic Experiment” centers on the sinister agency conducting the titular project, and its new recruit (Denton Blane Everett, TV’s “Lone Star,” as cardboard as a hobo’s home). Also packed into the supporting cast are scream queens past (Adrienne King, “Friday the 13th”) and present (Katie Featherston, “Paranormal Activity”).
House has ideas for good scenes — dolls bursting from their boxes, a suburban housewife melted into a puddle on the kitchen floor — but lacks the know-how to tie them together in a manner that makes sense or piques interest. Practical effects are the movie’s strong point; amateur acting from Everett and his fellow unknowns comprise its weakest.
The disc’s making-of featurette does the film no favors. House talks up his previous project, 2008’s “Closet Space,” as if we’re all familiar with it, then he and everyone else discuss this 10-years-in-the-making-kinda picture with a degree of delusion not unlike the rejects on “American Idol”‘s audition episodes. Everett himself sums up the off-putting self-importance at play, as he recalls coming aboard after reading the script: “This is, like, fuckin’ intelligent.”
Sure sounds that way, doesn’t it? —Rod Lott