Jump into a night of murder and mayhem with Mickey Keating’s newest feature film, which follows a gaggle of unwell, ultra-violent characters down a rabbit hole of insanity. Due to the newness of the film at the time of this review, this is a rare, SPOILER FREE review of what the film brings to the table. Because there are certain perks associated with doing this whole review thing, we occasionally get to see movies early. Psychopaths is one of those instances, and we wanted to give you the lowdown on what you can expect without ruining the whole damn thing. Give the trailer a watch and then continue down to our refreshingly light and spoilerless (read: vague) review of the movie.
Reviewed by: Jake
Psychopaths wastes absolutely no time getting into things. After a quick and seemingly obligatory cameo by the great Larry Fessenden, who plays a mass murderer executed by electric chair, the stage is set. At no time throughout the film is any character on screen remotely sane (save for a few 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.
You’ve got mask-donning lunatics, escaped asylum inmates and more, and as the night progresses, each begins crossing paths with the other in an all-out display of murderous mayhem. Simple. As. That.
What the Movie Does Right
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. To that end, the heart and ambition behind the film is one of its strengths. While not everything works perfectly, this is a movie in a long line of movies made by a dude who loves horror and loves experimenting.
There is almost no work done to establish any of the characters or their motives in Psychopaths, 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, and points should be awarded for delivering on promises.
Finally, anyone who knows Keating knows he 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 an almost three-minute 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.
What the Movie Does Wrong
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. One frustration with the film is that it does a commendable job of laying the groundwork for more explanation into 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.
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.
Story: 2 - There is no real story in this movie outside of there being a night where evil people are doing evil things. Why are they all doing it at once? Apparently it doesn’t really matter.
World-Building / Immersion: 6 - Keating’s filming style is a bit polarizing. You either love the artistic approach he takes to his shots or you hate it. Personally, I love it and I find it fun to watch what bonkers thing he is going to do next from a shot perspective. That alone can’t carry the whole film however, and there is essentially no world building here.
Scare-Factor: 6 - This movie is ultra-violent and ultra-irrational. Despite not explaining how this convergence of psychos was influenced, the sheer mayhem and brutal “it could happen” style of scare is enough to get the blood pumping a bit.
Effects (or Judicious Lack Thereof): 7 - This is where I have to place Keating’s masterful eye for an interesting shot. Psychopaths is super stylish and very, very weird. There are some great sets and props used, and Keating does a good job of working within budgetary boundaries because the movie manages to toe the outright and implied violence line quite well, delivering a bit of both but remaining impactful throughout.
Overall: 6.5 - Psychopaths is a gorgeous, psychedelic fever dream of violence and mayhem. It may miss the mark for viewers wanting to attach meaning to the visuals on screen but ultimately, as Fessenden’s character notes, asking “why?” is asking the wrong question. Fans and those familiar with Keating’s work should not hesitate to see Psychopaths.