SEPTEMBER 20, 2011
It’s rare, but occasionally I miss a movie at Screamfest and need to catch it on DVD later. However, the esteemed Simon Barrett (my frequent “date” for Screamfest screenings) did NOT miss Psych:9, and later told me that it was the absolute worst film he ever saw at the festival. I assumed whatever I did instead (can’t recall what it was) was a better use of my time, but it always nagged at me, and with the new festival just around the corner I figured it was time that I finally found out if I agreed with him or not.
Well, I don’t. It’s certainly not very good at all, and I can certainly understand why it was on the shelf for over four years, but I’ll take it over dreck like The Canyon or Train, because at least here the characters have a good reason for doing colossally stupid things – they’re crazy! Well, at least our heroine is, and also kind of a bitch, so when she does something that might endanger her most audience members would probably cheer at her impending doom. I don’t know if the character was written to be this unlikable or if Sara Foster just played her that way, but by the time we finally get around to knowing WHY she’s so cold, it might be a bit too late for folks to care about her dilemma. Plus, some of the supporting characters seem “off”, particularly Michael Biehn as the least subtle cop of all time (at one point he makes a big show out of “accidentally” dropping some papers he wanted Foster to see). I didn’t quite get her husband either – why did he marry this girl in the first place? Yeah, she’s smoking hot, but he can’t even bring her a pizza at work without her snapping at him. And she’s got bedroom issues, so it’s not that keeping him around either. Cary Elwes is seemingly the only one that’s got a clear head, but since he’s a shrink I guess that’s sort of a given.
But that’s not the problem with the movie – it’s actually kind of ballsy to make your heroine so unpleasant. The problem is the second half, when the generic but not too terrible spooky hospital movie (it’s closing down, she is tasked with packing up the records room) becomes an obnoxious twist movie. Characters are revealed to be all in her head, back-stories reveal that some of them knew each other before the events of this film and one party has simply forgotten/blocked it from memory, etc. We also learn who the killer is, and I highly doubt anyone will be shocked by the reveal if they’ve been paying attention and/or have ever seen another psychological horror film. As all the twists pile up (sometimes they even double back on them), the movie gets less and less interesting, and certainly less successful/scary.
I don’t know why horror filmmakers try to over-complicate their horror films – the more your brain is concentrating on trying to figure out what exactly is going on, the less likely it is that you’ll be scared or even mildly unnerved. Not that you can’t tell a good story in a horror film, certainly not. With Elwes around it’s easy enough to make a comparison to Saw – the story in those movies really isn’t all that complicated, nor are the twists based around what is essentially cheating. Everything we see in a Saw film actually happened at some point or another, unlike here where you have to rewind and puzzle over what scenes really occurred and which were just in Foster’s head. Plus it doesn’t even all add up – a character is killed on one floor at the same time that the person we are led to believe is the killer is up on the roof. So who killed her, then? If you’re going to go down the twist path, you have to make sure you QC your script and make sure everything adds up. Otherwise, the dim folks in the audience are just going to hate your movie because they can’t follow it, and the smart ones are going to be annoyed at the lack of care that went into the plotting.
It’s also weird that they switch focus at the hour mark. For the entire movie, Foster is front and center for every scene, but then suddenly we’re following her “partner” from the records sorting job around the hospital, and seeing Biehn talk to the husband, etc. There’s also a flashback sequence with Elwes character that comes so out of nowhere I momentarily assumed that the DVD had glitched. Not that any of these scenes are outright terrible (well, the Elwes flashback is, since they try really hard to hide something that is very obvious about it), but by this point of the movie they have seemingly intentionally given us the entire story solely from her POV, so to have scenes in which she’s not even present when the movie is heading toward its conclusion is quite jarring.
If you weren’t annoyed or bored by the movie itself, the extra features might appeal to you. You can waste your time with 35 minutes of deleted/extended scenes that are largely of no use whatsoever, or if time is fleeting you can take in the 25 minute blooper reel, 90% of which is just Foster flubbing her lines. Look, bloopers can be funny, but if you’re going to show someone screwing up THIS MANY TIMES, it loses its comedic value, fast – it starts to feel like they’re actually showing us this to be mean to her. The making of is somewhat entertaining; in addition to giving Ms. Foster a chance to be herself (i.e. charming) during interviews, we’re also taken on a tour of the pretty great hospital location. Fluff, sure, but apart from the trailer it’s also the shortest thing on the disc, making it the least offensive.
Speaking of offensive – there is a subplot about the sexual abuse of a child (by her father no less), so be warned. I’m not against such a thing in general, but when its used as a plot point for a very silly pseudo-slasher thing like this, it feels even cruder than usual. I guess I can appreciate the filmmakers attempting to tackle more difficult subject matter, but unfortunately, as with the twists, you either have to nail it perfectly or else it just comes across as somewhat exploitative. View at your own risk!
What say you?