Genre wonder boy Mickey Keating is quickly becoming a ubiquitous force in the horror world. Psychopaths marks his sixth writer/director effort in about as many years, and he is the host of the much-loved new genre show The Core on Shudder. His wide-reaching presence and quickly growing stable of films are testaments to his passion for horror, as is the sheer breadth of ground he covers in his movies. No Keating work is remotely like any other, illustrating a deep love for film and respect for the diversity of the genre. If there is a consistent nit to be picked with Keating’s work, it is that his visuals have always overpowered his storytelling. Psychopaths is no different in that regard. In fact, it may be the guiltiest of his entire catalogue. But that is not entirely to the detriment of what Psychopaths is, which is a gorgeous, psychedelic fever dream of violence and mayhem.
Psychopaths wastes absolutely no time getting into things. The stage is set following a quick and seemingly obligatory cameo by the great Larry Fessenden, who plays a mass murderer executed by electric chair. At no time throughout the film is any character on screen remotely sane (save for maybe a few of the victims). Psychopaths is essentially an anthology which jumps back and forth between a cast of lunatics during a night of pure chaos as foretold by Fessenden’s character in his final words. There is almost no work done to establish any of the characters or their motives, and while that may turn off some viewers, it is an intentional play by Keating to cut loose any logical threads and to simply bask in the insanity. Hell, the entire approach is baked into Fessenden’s opening monologue when he exclaims “There ain’t no “why?” to evil… Evil is a straight and simple “just because.”‘ To that end, Psychopaths is exactly what it promises to be.
Keating has done some extremely interesting visual work in his career, perhaps most notably with Darling’s stark and haunting black-and-white approach. Psychopaths is essentially the opposite of that palette but is no less effective, serving up an onslaught of neon throughout almost the entire film. There is also an abundance of ambitious shots on display here. The film opens with a nearly three-minute-long continuous shot of well-choreographed violence, setting the table extremely well for what is to come. Some Keating hallmarks are present as well, with numerous balance-breaking split screen and in-camera effects.
One frustration with the film is that it does a commendable job of laying the groundwork for more explanation of who each of the characters are, but it never capitalizes. In the ensemble of psychos, some of the strongest performances in any Keating work are turned in by Ashley Bell (Carnage Park, The Last Exorcism), Angela Trimbur (The Final Girls, Trash Fire), and Jeremy Gardner (Spring, The Mind’s Eye, The Battery). These characters are all so different from one another that their personal brands of insanity beg to be dissected but never are. Each is ultimately treated as a passing shadow in the night which feels like a disservice to their performances at first, but ultimately keeps the films core irrationality intact. An outright miss comes from the fact that the opening monologue foreshadows that some bad shit will happen on the night of the film’s events but it never explains how. Full moon? Was Fessenden’s Manson-esque character really that influential? There may not be a why to evil, but there should be more of a definitive reason as to why all the evil came out to play on this particular night.
Fans and those familiar with Keating’s work should not hesitate to see Psychopaths. It is a beautiful, pulpy and schizophrenic flick that is worth the ride. It may miss the mark for viewers wanting to attach some meaning to the visuals on screen but ultimately, as Fessenden’s character notes, asking “why?” is asking the wrong question.
Come check out A-Z Horror for many more reviews, lists, and a drunken podcast!