Horror fans are an odd breed. Where else could it be acceptable to crave a little blood and violence, but in the welcoming arms of a horror film. Luckily, Mickey Keating (Pod, Darling) understands this craving and delivers it via horrific acid-trip-esque ride of Psychopaths. The film is a psychedelic assault to the senses, complete with hypnotic cinematography and a killer soundtrack. After first catching the film at last year’s Overlook Film Festival, I’ve been itching to watch it again. (Purely because it is 80 minutes of pure, violent fun.)
Like Trick r Treat on steroids, Psychopaths is a unique anthology film, of sorts. The film takes place over the course of one evening, after the murderous Henry Starkweather (the legendary Larry Fessenden) possesses the souls of the wicked to continue his work following his execution. We witness several maniacs wreak havoc on the town. All crossing paths along the way.
Mickey Keating is an immensely talented director, known for his fast-paced films that he produces equally as fast; 5 written/directed films in 4 years. With that same speedy pace, Keating manages to introduce you to his bag of sadistic murderers, offering creative kill scenes to satisfy any horror fan.
There is so much to like about Psychopaths, but the first thing that jumps out at you is the production. For how fast Keating’s films come together, it’s always staggering how sharp everything looks and sounds. Each of his films have their own unique look. Like the black-and-white Darling to the grittier Carnage Park, Psychopaths has switched things up once again in favor of vibrant colors and smooth, dynamic camera movement. The sound design is also quite impressive. The dialogue, narration, and provocative soundtrack are juggled seamlessly. Easy on the eyes and ears, it’s definitely a film that will entertain re-watch after re-watch. Keating’s unique aesthetic flows through every film he creates; you can tell he’s a genuine horror fan who enjoys what he does.
Someone who know’s this all too well is Sam Zimmerman. Sam is the curator of Shudder and stars as Mask, one of the psychopaths in the film. was He happy to share a bit of insight with Nightmare on Film Street on working with Keating on Psychopaths:
I’m very lucky in that Mickey and I are sort of kindred spirits. Even before we properly met, mutual friends of ours had been anticipating the day we would become buds. So whether we’re just hanging tough, or working together, it’s a total privilege to be alongside someone with matched taste and enthusiasm. On THE CORE, it’s about bringing our social dynamic and energy onscreen, because we want the viewers to feel as if they’re a part of the conversation, as if they could jump in and add a recommendation at any second.
With Psychopaths, Mickey was my director, guiding us toward his dream of the film. With a similar taste in highly visual, stylish and aestheticized work, my goal was to be as of service as I could be to that vision. I wanted to be a working, proper piece of something whole; colorful, psychedelic and alluring. Fortunately, Mickey makes it very smooth to do so. He’s precise and assured in what we wants, but also very infectious, fun and sweet natured.
You can’t have a movie called Psychopaths if your killers aren’t crafted to perfection, but Keating delivers in this department as well. Throughout the course of the film, each different ‘psycho’ you meet has their own distinct motivations and killing styles. The unique traits of each killer is brought to life by some big names in the indie horror world; such as Ashley Bell (The Last Exorcism, Carnage Park) and Angela Trimbur (The Final Girls). I was particularly a fan of the character The Strangler, who was über creepy and has the most disturbing journey in the film. Bell also delivers a dynamite performance as Alice, including one of the creepiest scenes I’ve seen this past year. From an unhinged cop to a sadistic femme fatale, Psychopaths has plenty of lunatics to keep the carnage coming in a variety of ways.
Zimmerman’s Mask was also a fascinating character. I respect the craft of acting immensely, so I enjoyed his physical performance in Psychopaths a lot. It takes some skill to portray a character whose face the audience never sees. I’m also a sucker for a classic, masked-serial killer, so I asked Sam about joining the horror ranks and the challenge of acting behind a mask:
Oh man, it rules. On a pure fan side, it’s so rad and heartwarming to be a part of that cinematic canon– the masked killer. When Mickey kindly asked me to be a part of Psychopaths, he told me immediately “you’re one of the main psychopaths, you’re in a mask the whole time,” and I was so thrilled. I grew up acting, and so much of my instruction was about movement and the physical, so I knew that crafting a physical presence – since Mickey had already highly designed the fashion of Mask – would be really fun and freeing.
And it is! You have to try and convey all that Mask is through movement, both as an intimidating presence and as someone with a whole lot going on emotionally and mentally. I hope I did Mask justice and am wildly stoked to have had the chance.
If there was anything to knock about the film, it would probably be the plot. Or rather, the lack there of. Though told in an extremely unique way, with the interweaving storylines, some fans might get bored with the lack of a central narrative. I personally was too busy enjoying people’s faces getting beat to bloody pulps to care about plot, but it might not float other peoples’ boats the same. The violence is something that might turn people off as well, so if you’re sensitive to hyper violence and blood: Psychopaths might not be for you.
I will say that even though there isn’t a central story, there is a well-developed central theme. Psychopaths is a character story that explores the nature of evil, why certain psychopaths do the things they do. It’s very simple in which the film provides a simple answer: just because. As a horror fan, you don’t need a film with an intricate story: sometimes you just need good ol’ fashioned mayhem! The best thing about Mickey Keating films is you can see how much of a fan of the genre he is and that he wants to satisfy the audience. With it’s break-neck pace and buckets of blood, this film is definitely for excessive horror fans. Psychopaths is a loud, violent fever dream and I can’t recommend it enough!
Psychopaths is now available on VOD as of January 2nd.