Psychopaths (FrightFest 2017)


PsychopathsStarring Ashley Bell, James Landry Hébert, Angela Trimbur, Sam Zimmerman, Larry Fessenden

Directed by Mickey Keating

As notorious serial killer Henry Earl Starkweather (Fessenden) prepares for his impending execution, he delivers a part-crazed, part-chilling warning in an on-camera interview: swearing that as his evil soul is released from his body, a night of unparalleled violence and chaos will unfold on the streets.

In Mickey Keating’s Psychopaths, the night isn’t exactly unparalleled, but it is indeed violent.

Drawn along by the slumber-inducing drawl of an entirely unnecessary narrator, Psychopaths offers up a series of loosely-connected vignettes featuring a number of ruthless killers, each with their own motives, who move into action on the night of Starkweather’s departure.

A moustachioed man (Hébert ) who strangles women and keeps locks of their hair in a scrapbook runs afoul of the equally twisted Blondie (Trimbur) – finding the tables turned as he’s whisked away to her personal torture dungeon.

Next door to Blondie’s home is an arguing couple who find their abode invaded by escaped asylum resident Alice (Bell), whose delusions give way only to murderous impulses.

Meanwhile, a disfigured, masked assassin (Zimmerman, offering one of the film’s most interesting performances through physicality alone) is tasked with executing one of Starkweather’s “vessels” – a job that sees him land in the clutches of an equally murderous corrupt cop.

Whilst all of this sounds interesting on the surface, the execution is one for art-house fans only. Forgiving ones, for that matter. Keating’s pacing is all over the place, the urge to deploy yet another self-indulgent dance sequence or needlessly extended shot seemingly remaining outside of his control and wholly dominant over narrative concerns.

Those fully attentive will pick up on hints regarding the Starkweather plot, but the film would play almost identically without them – relegating both this and the accompanying narration to almost complete redundancy. Form takes precedence over anything else, here – not necessarily a bad thing, but Psychopaths regularly frustrates with a forced sense of gravitas and smug satisfaction that it simply doesn’t earn.

A saving grace in the whole affair comes in the form of Ashley Bell, the most fascinating psycho of the bunch. A period starlet in her own mind, she soon adorns herself as a glamorous queen of the red carpet – whilst spreading red around the home of her unfortunate victims. Yet, even Bell’s mesmerising turn is rendered an annoyance on occasion by extended song and dance sequences that insist on labouring the point long after it’s been made.

And that’s primarily what making it through Psychopaths is: a labour. Some excellent visuals and flashes of artistic intelligence just can’t make up for the threadbare plotting and consequent boredom – and when all is said and done, the film’s closing loop back to a dull retread of its opening feels like a strangely apt send-off for a largely pointless viewing experience.

  • Film
User Rating 3 (20 votes)


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