Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Psych: 9

TITLE: Psych: 9
SCORE: 1.5 out of 4

This film straddles the line between psychological thriller and supernatural thriller, but its perch is precarious.  The obviousness of the later reveal renders large portions of the movie as tedious set-up to what you know is going to be a grim and meager payoff. Then the movie forgets itself and tries for something half-clever, but leaves us with a muddled ending that tries for ambiguous and lands somewhere short of comprehensible.

The plot is basic, and lifted from countless predecessors (such as Session 9, a movie with a nearly identical set up and many other obvious similarities): a young single white female starts a job doing tedious filing work for the psych ward of a hospital which has been closed down. She thinks this will be relaxing but actually the spooky setting and long hours alone start to fray her nerves. She picks up smoking again, her marriage starts to deteriorate as does her mental health as she becomes plagued by paranoia and nightmares. Slowly her past is unraveled as she begins to have therapy sessions with a psychiatrist who is occasionally around, apparently tying up loose ends or something...

This character study is "added" to by a serial killer subplot which acts as the catalyst for the final, and not quite understandable, denouement. The film presents two mutually exclusive possibilities for the events that unfold before us, but these possibilities are also each internally inconsistent and don't hold up to scrutiny. The third possibility is so vague and barely realized that I'm not sure I even know what it might be.

Its not a stinker; the production values are fairly high and the acting is good for indie horror standards. Unfortunately, the film also suffers from some of the common afflictions that come with a small budget - a cast of six characters, a total of four sets, hardly any establishing shots, and so on. I think a really good film will transcend its budget - and tell a story where these things don't really factor in at all; in fact many of the best horror films have had notoriously tiny budgets and its because of being innovative with constraints its part of the art of film-making.

All in all its mostly a retread of very tired psychological thriller tropes, lacking any spark of originality, done cheaply without much concern for artistry or cinematic depth. There's just barely enough meat on its bones to make it not terrible, but obviously that's not much of a recommendation.