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Psychosis


A horror/thriller that works

Rod Lott January 24th, 2011

When you watch as many movies as I do, it's inevitable that some start to resemble one another in story, even within the same month.

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For example, in "Paper Man," Jeff Daniels is a novelist under extreme pressure to deliver a new book, so he goes to a remote location where things in his head start to distract him. In "Psychosis," Charisma Carpenter is a novelist under extreme pressure to deliver a new book, so she goes to a remote location where things in her head start to distract her.

There's one big difference between them: The first is a comedy-drama; the latter, a horror-thriller ... and one that opens with the best/funniest foot-licking scene in the history of horror cinema. So what if the field isn't that crowded?

As Susan, Carpenter and her husband, David (newcomer Paul Sculfor), retreat to a gorgeous, Gothic mansion in the English countryside, secluded by miles from civilization. Its picture of striking serenity soon shatters when Susan, while out for a walk in the woods, spots a scruffy guy (Ricci Harnett, "28 Days Later") having rather aggressive sex in the woods — "like an animal!" she tells David. (And somewhere, Trent Reznor thinks, "Hey, that'd make a great lyric ...")

It's the first of many visions experienced by the mentally fragile Susan that may or may not be real, ranging from a young man playing soccer in the yard, to a bathtub full of blood, to an old dead guy in her bed. Adding insult to injury, David is a cheating bastard who hangs out at bathhouse orgies and the like, and while he's away, Scruffy Guy comes over to play.

I liked "Psychosis" more than I expected, more than its tepid, 3.7 IMDb rating suggests. Writer/director Reg Traviss intended to make a film more psychological, more true to the '70s Hammer mold than the slashers of today, and he succeeds in that. His script — an adaptation of a segment from the 1983 horror anthology "Screamtime" — could use a B12 shot in pacing and certainly a better ending, but on average, it works. Portions of it struck me as cribbing the best elements from the classic, late-19th-century short stories "The Great God Pan" and "The Yellow Wallpaper."

Carpenter is too beautiful a woman to be taken seriously as a serious actress, but she's pretty believable in the role, or at least sympathetic, even if she shows no inclination as being a creative writer — more the fault of Traviss than her.

The DVD includes a half-hour documentary on the production, which is extremely generous in length and depth, given this type of film. Don't watch it until after the movie, however; it gives everything away. —Rod Lott


 
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