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Friday, January 31, 2014

HYSTERICAL PSYCHO -- DVD review by porfle

This spoof of slasher flicks is supposed to be an homage to Hitchcock--whose movies bear no resemblance to it whatsoever--but it's more of an homage to homages to slasher flick homages.  In other words,  it's an homage of an homage of a tribute to an homage of a spoof of two tributes to a spoof of an homage.  You might even call it "Not Another Teen Slasher Flick."  You might call it that, but comedian Dan Fogler calls his writing and directing debut HYSTERICAL PSYCHO (2009). 

Whatever it is, it starts out with a terrific animated segment that looks like something out of Rob Zombie's THE HAUNTED WORLD OF EL SUPERBEASTO, with Fogler imitating Hitchcock explaining how the Moon is on a revenge kick against the Earth resulting in a crater which became Moon Lake which is buzzing with lunar radioactivity that drives the people who go there insane.  Well, there has to be some kind of motivation to get the story going, so I guess that's as good as any.

Skipping right along exposition-wise, there's an intertitle which says something like "Two years ago a theater troupe went into the wilderness to find themselves.  They never came back."   This motley group is made up of the usual slasher flick stereotypes (except for the black guy who dies first and the jock), all made even more insufferable than usual because they're ack-taaahs. 

There's Lenny the nerdy mama's boy (Randy Baruh), sex kitten Sara (Kate Gersten), wacky stoner dude Steve (Ariel Shafir), wacky stoner chick Sarah (Sarah Saltzberg), another chick, a chick and a dude who are always having sex,  and another dude.  They all die.  Yay!  Okay, maybe not all of them.  Boo!

Anyway,  their weekend trip to Moon Lake Inn, which is sort of a rustic lodge in the snowy woods, quickly turns from a half-assed party to a fully-assed killfest when a bloodthirsty psycho starts hacking them up one by one.  By now, HYSTERICAL PSYCHO has already labored so hard to be quirky-funny that you can almost hear it hyperventilating. 

Director Fogler tries to ratchet up the mostly bland comedy by keeping the camera moving, bobbing and weaving incessantly amongst the cast--not, it would seem, because of any deliberate visual style but because other movies do it.  It's often as though the camera is strapped to Mary Lou Retton while she's performing her Olympic floor exercise on the set. 

This, coupled with relentlessly rapid-fire editing and an ear-bludgeoning musical score (which, admittedly,  does include some stirring use of "Swan Lake"), and the overall belief that unbridled kineticism and lots of screaming will improve the gags, makes for a sometimes tiresome experience. 

On the plus side, Fogler's movie looks swell for the budget and does have its directorial moments along with some genuine laughs.  Probably the funniest scene for me (besides the Gilbert Gottfried cameo early on) is when the gang find one of the girls in the shower covered with blood, the words "Ha Ha" written in crimson all over the walls, and conclude that she's been attacked by a bear. 

Still, HYSTERICAL PSYCHO alternates between being sporadically amusing and nightmarishly unfunny, with a prolonged climactic sequence (during which the surprising secret identity of the killer is revealed) that goes off the deep end into senses-numbing incoherence.  Gorehounds will find some sustenace here  and there, while horndogs  are warned that the sexiest babe dies early and there is no nudity.  Comedy fans, unfortunately, will find little here to excite them as well. 

The DVD from Indican Pictures is in anamorphic widescreen with both 5.1 and 2.0 stereo.  No subtitles.  Extras include a superb trailer along with three brief behind-the-scenes featurettes.  Oddly, a commentary feature with director Fogler and two others involved in the film is split into three continuing segments with them sitting in a dark room watching the movie on TV.  (Don't stop watching when the closing credits begin!)

While certainly not a total loss--I found it a good-natured, well-meaning mess from which brief nuggets of entertainment could be gleaned--HYSTERICAL PSYCHO is just a tad too much "hysterical" and not enough "Psycho."  It's as though they started out doing an homage to Hitchcock until someone secretly slipped LSD into everybody's water bottles.

Get it on Amazon Instant Video


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