Mickey Keating is so prolific, he’s practically horror’s answer to Xavier Dolan. Almost. Following hot on the heels of last year’s Pat Healy-starring Carnage Park is Psychopaths, the writer-director’s sixth feature since 2011’s Ultra Violence. And if it’s a little rough around the edges, can we really blame him? The man clearly never sits still for longer than an hour.
Opening up with a good ol’ cameo from genre hero Larry Fessenden (always welcome), who also takes an executive producer credit on the film, Pyschopaths soon establishes its hook with the simple line “there ain’t no ‘why’ to evil”. Narrated by Jeff Daniel Phillips (Rob Zombie’s stand-in from The Lords Of Salem), the story takes place over one, fateful, blood-drenched night.
A bunch of, you guessed it, psychopaths are on the loose causing mayhem, from Ashley Bell’s (The Last Exorcism) on-the-brink starlet to James Landry Hébert’s (Westworld) pornstache-sporting dandy, it’s a smorgasbord of colourful crims. And on their trail is none other than The Battery‘s Jeremy Gardner, still wearing that thumb ring in spite of playing a cop.
The concept is good but Keating makes it unbearably convoluted, bringing in everything from overlong musical interludes to bizarre, torture porn-esque sequences in a cellar. The thing needs more moments of quiet, more time to ruminate and stew in its own filth. It doesn’t help that Phillips’ narration is pretty much constant and the score is hugely grating (Pulp Fiction this is not).
It’s terribly overcooked and takes away from the film’s atmosphere rather than adding to it. The spectre of Tarantino looms large in general, as well as that of RZ himself, who revels in scuzziness and showed he could make an interlude off-putting as hell with House Of 1000 Corpses. This is the kind of movie with a strip-club scene that also encompasses snorting coke off a mirror.
Maybe it’s purposeful? Perhaps Keating is taking aim at these kinds of movies by making Psychopaths nigh-on unbearable by the end? It’s a shame because the performances are fine (although Bell’s fifteen minutes should be up by now, considering she only has one in her), particularly from Gardner in an underwritten role.
In service of this nonsense plot, though, it all feels like a bit of a waste. There is good stuff here, but Psychopaths shoots its load early on and the framing device, with Fessenden’s character’s doom-laden speech, is incredibly clunky. Keating is a demonstrably talented and inventive filmmaker willing to take a risk. If he reined it in a little bit, this could’ve been something really special.
As it stands, this is still the mark of someone with much more to say and that, in itself, should make us excited for what he does next.
WICKED RATING: 4/10
Director(s): Mickey Keating
Writer(s): Mickey Keating
Stars: Ashley Bell, Jeremy Gardner, Larry Fessenden, Jeff Daniel Phillips
Studio/ Production Co: Glass Eye Pix
Length: 85 minutes