Psychopath (2009)

PsychopathReviewed by Eric Van Der Wolf

Starring Kyle Billeter, DaNae West, Lawrence Wiencek III

Written and directed by Robert Elkins.

Distributed by Eyesore Productions

Many of the genre films most of us hold near and dear to our collective blood pumpers did not come from the Hollywood machine, but from the trenches of independent cinema. The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, Halloween, The Legend of Boggy Creek, A Nightmare on Elm Street – all products by talented filmmakers working well outside the Hollywood studio system. Driven by a vision, by passion, they begged and borrowed money from friends, family members, sometimes their doctors and dentists – practically anybody with loose change in their pockets – all in an effort to get their films made in a time when the money raised barely covered the costs of film stock and lab processing fees, let alone the costs of cast and crew who, more often than not, donated more time to the project than they were paid for. But those efforts resulted in films we now consider classics and pillars of the genre.

Which is what makes it so frustrating that in today’s modern age, when digital technology has made it easier, and cheaper, for independent filmmakers to realize their cinematic vision, we’re not seeing more original material being made. In fact, it almost seems as though the digital age has actually had a negative effect on independent cinema, given that just about anyone with access to a camera, a little cash, and a cadre of willing friends can make a movie these days. The end result is that for every Paranormal Activity or Cabin Fever, there are twenty cinematic duds that make a Cinemax After Hours flick starring Shannon Tweed, Richard Grieco, and John Stamos seem like a reprieve.

Unfortunately, Psychopath is yet another entry in this sad trend.

Written and directed by Robert Elkins, the pic tells the tale of Tara (Billeter), whose car breaks down on a desolate back road in truck and gun rack country (never mind the busy highway behind her; just pretend you don’t see it). Instead of using her cell phone to call for a tow truck, she calls her sister who apparently lives nearly three hours away and leaves a voice mail asking for help. While waiting for a return call, a rather dubious stranger happens by and offers her a ride. Instead of declining the ride and waiting for her sister to call back, she accepts the offer and, sure enough, it’s the last ride she’ll take as he eventually overpowers her and leaves her in the forest as “game” for “Eddie,” an escapee from a maximum security asylum clad in a mask that looks like a cross between the gunny sack worn by the killer in The Town That Dreaded Sundown and a Sleestack. Eddie eventually does what he apparently does best and brutally murders Tara in a vacant house he’s made into his lair.

Not long after, Tara’s sister, Sarah, who turns out to be a twin also played by Billeter (something never capitalized on in the story), eventually gets Tara’s message and tries to call her back. But, when Tara doesn’t answer or respond to voice mails, Sarah, who doesn’t own a car (which makes it even more ludicrous her sister would call her instead of a tow truck) enlists the help of two friends, Jake and Holly (Russ Bryan and DaNae West) to drive her the three hours to find her sister.

And it’s at this point where Elkins’ script, which is already pedestrian, simply becomes a tired exercise in watching the trio go through the paces of very predictable slasher fare. Since we already saw what happened to Tara, there are no mysteries here, no surprises, and nothing even remotely original. We’re well ahead of the characters every step of the way, thus we never identify with their predicament and are never compelled to ask “What’s going to happen next?” because we already know.

Elkins tries to amp up the film (as well as the running time) with a variety of brutal murders, but since they aren’t related to the primary story whatsoever, all it does is make the film seem choppy, uneven, and, worst of all, desperate.

To his credit, Elkins tries to be creative with his camera placement, and one can see a visual style beginning to emerge, but there’s virtually nothing a director can do to compensate for a bad script.

Just ask M. Night Shyamalan.

1/2 out of 5
(because DaNae West is all kinds of hot)

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