There are six Psychosis films listed on IMDB, strangely all made between 2008 and 2011, but this is the 2010 Psychosis directed by Reg Traviss that I’ve unearthed which stars Buffy and Angel star Charisma Carpenter.
The film opens to see a bunch of scruffy, pierced British eco warriors, called things like Snake, pitching up camp with the slogan ‘Squat the world’ (whilst they’re miles away from anywhere in the middle of a wood). They start doing the normal things groups of campers do in horror films, which is split up and disappear, strangely they’ve chosen winter to camp in as well, and this understandably goes tits up. Another case of don’t go in the woods, as they’re picked off, in one case in mid bonk, by a complete nutter who looks like he should be in a Ronseal advert.
Several years later I’m presuming, we’re following crime writer Susan Golden (Carpenter) and her feller (Paul Sculfor) as they move out to a huge house in the English countryside, which weirdly they’ve never seen before (‘Oh there’s no phone signal,’ says Sculfor). She’s moved to have some peace and quiet and find ‘inspiration’ to finish her latest novel, so why have they moved into a 12 bed mansion that needs doing up and which requires a gardener and gamekeeper to manage? Surely a small cottage would have made far more sense? This is always a problem with horror films, a lack of common sense, and that is what makes many of them fail in generating actual horror.
A random drinking reverend just wanders in, apparently looking out for ‘squatters’ and ‘unruly youth’, but he may be on to something as Susan sees a strange boy kicking a ball around outside who keeps disappearing when she goes to talk to him.
There are allusions to a ‘previous episode’ which ‘won’t happen again’, so we’re led to believe that Susan might not be the most reliable narrator. She certainly hasn’t got much of a sense of direction because she gets lost in the woods and flashed at by some random beardy who turns out to be the gamekeeper. Along with the vanishing footballing hoodie, a range of weird knocks and creaks in the house and people treating everything she says with distinct disbelief, the paranoia starts to set in.
Left alone by herself things take a turn for the worse, not helped by the gamekeeper spiking her with magic mushrooms – people appear and disappear, sometimes covered in blood. Unlike a haunting though, sometimes it’s people that are still alive. And it works well to a certain point because as the vicar says when she talks to him about it: ‘What would you like me to do?’ If nobody else can see or admits to seeing these visions, it’s not a clear cut case of what is happening.
I think Charisma Carpenter is quite good as an out of place American in the English countryside with a history of mental breakdown struggling to cling to reality. Other people have said she overacts in this, but I disagree, she’s the one putting all of the energy into this film – it’s her husband’s lack of acting which is what gets my goat. Sculfor’s a bog standard cockney geezer who’s frankly not that interesting so it’s a bit of a strange film with Carpenter doing the classic ‘seeing things in an old country house’ thing with the weird locals and her husband living mostly in a modern London world. I don’t think it blends very well, and despite an interesting idea and good execution when it comes to Susan’s ‘visions’ and whether they’re real or not, it falls short of being a good psychological horror for a couple or reasons.
The first is that the original killings and Susan’s situation in the house are too loosely connected, and the killer is simply a random maniac with no further development. Second is the removal of her husband from the situation which means we have to watch him pratting about with prostitutes and Justin Hawkins, who’s desperately trying to look like Steve Tyler, in London instead. How are they friends and what the hell does a rock star get out of his association with Susan’s husband? It’s a bit flimsy and forgettable and I kept getting the feeling that it was just too much of an English film and Carpenter, despite what I think is a perfectly good performance, doesn’t quite slot in.