Welcome to Cult Corner where we dive through the bargain bins to determine if a movie is trash or treasure. Today’s pick…Ray Danton’s Psychic Killer.
Psychic Killer is pretty much exactly what it sounds like. We follow Arnold Masters, a man wrongfully accused of murder as he goes on a revenge quest against everyone involved in the case that had him locked up in prison. As the bodies start to pile up, the police struggle to find a connection between all of these seemingly accidental deaths, but things only get stranger and stranger from there.
The deaths in Psychic Killer play out almost like a low budget 70’s version of Final Destination, where bad things just sort of start to happen until the person is dead. Masters essentially kills through astral projection. He sits in a vegetative state while his spirit goes out and telekinetically effects things. These scenes are fun, with most of the characters who are killed being cartoonish and over the top caricatures. If you’ve ever wanted to see a slutty nurse get murdered by a killer shower, this is the movie for you! Personally, the construction site death is my favorite because of how slapstick it is. The only death I didn’t really like was the last one, because it was uncharacteristically gruesome compared to the rest.
The cast does a fine job. Paul Burke and Julie Adams are both likable as Lt. Morgan and Dr. Laura Scott, even though their sudden romance seemingly comes out of nowhere. I would have liked to have seen a bit more chemistry between them but that isn’t a deal breaker or anything. Jim Hutton is great as Arnold Masters, playing the character both believable and sinister in the same breath. Some of the best parts of the film are when he taunts Lt. Morgan about the murders, knowing that there’s absolutely no way to prove he was involved. He turns into this smarmy egotistical prick and it’s hilarious to watch Morgan tear his hair out in response.
For the most part Psychic Killer is kind of fun, even though the script is all over the place. My biggest issue with the film is how completely aimless the focus is. Who exactly is the main characters supposed to be? Who’s the protagonist? Who’s the villain? The film doesn’t seem to know. We start off following Masters, which led me to believe that this would play out like a heroic revenge story, but the second he gets out of prison and starts offing people the focus shifts to the police. For the rest of the movie you’re following Police Lt. Jeff Morgan as he tries to solve the case and stop Masters. Right around the end they switch it back up and start playing it as if Morgan’s the villain and Masters is sympathetic. Then at the very last minute they seemingly try to switch again! Without a clear side to root for the movie just leaves us with nothing to latch on to. It’s not even like they’re trying to paint both sides in shades of grey, which would have been acceptable. It just comes off as sloppy writing.
For the most part the film is actually directed well. The movie looks pretty good, though it’s certainly showing its’ 40 year age by now. The only set I have to take a bit of an issue with is Masters’ abandoned house, which is decorated with cobwebs straight out of a Halloween party. There isn’t much in the way of special effects, but what is there is well done.
Overall, Psychic Killer is… alright. The cast is pretty good and there are a lot of individual scenes that are entertaining to watch, but the movie is incredibly uneven as a whole. They shift focus seemingly at random and I was left wondering who I was supposed to root for. The script is kind of like that in general, though. There are more than a few moments that will make you scratch your head and definitely some leaps in logic. Masters gains his psychic powers from a fellow prisoner, but if the other prisoner was as powerful as they imply then how did he let himself get captured in the first place? There are a lot of these moments that don’t add up and by the end of the film I was just left feeling apathetic. I’d recommend skipping this one.
Here at Cult Corner we cover the weird and obscure. Given the low budget that these movies often have we feel the need to recognize that entertainment value and quality aren’t always synonymous. That’s why we have opted for the “trash or treasure” approach in lieu of a typical rating system. After all, Troll 2 is incredibly entertaining but it’s no 8 out of 10.