DIRECTED BY: Andrew Shortell
FEATURING: Sara Foster, Cary Elwes, Michael Biehn, Gabriel Mann, Ryan James,
PLOT: A records clerk working the graveyard shift in a shut-down hospital has puzzling,
ghastly visions that may or may not be connected to a string of murders and her own past. As she strives to interpret the unusual events, she becomes ensnared in the uncanny, plummeting into a morass of sick secrets, murder, arson and madness.
WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST: Psych: 9 sports a delightful, creatively non-linear plot. The story is conveyed via a reality-blurring mixture of flashbacks and delusions blended with the present. Aside from the clever story-telling technique however, Psych: 9 is an otherwise conventional psychological thriller, with mystery and horror elements.
COMMENTS: Roslyn (Foster) takes a night job sorting records in a defunct, mostly deserted, eerie old hospital. At work, a sleazy security guard (James) likes to leer, her nervous husband (Mann) likes to visit, and an off-kilter detective (Biehn) is taken to calling on her. Her only trustworthy ally is a shrink who is busy sorting records up on the fifth floor, and he’s somehow just a little bit too nice.
The detective is investigating a series of sensational hammer murders in the hospital’s creepy neighborhood, and the shifty-eyed husband, Cole, who drives a taxi, just happens to be in the vicinity every time the murders occur. Suspiciously, Cole can’t account for the whereabouts of, you guessed it, his long, sharp geologist’s hammer missing from his toolbox.
To make things even more coincidentally unsettling, Roslyn was born in the hospital where she now works and has some undisclosed issues about her past. Disturbingly, these past issues connect to troubling uncertainties about her present. Complicating matters, she starts seeing scary apparitions that may or may not really be there. Roslyn also has occasional daydream/nightmares. They are deepening in intensity and increasingly resemble psychotic episodes.
Roslyn does her best to maintain her composure by delving into her duties, and she has her work cut out for her. There are an awful lot of files on an awful lot of patients in the hospital archives. People Roslyn wouldn’t have thought would be patients. And these files contain an awful lot of information, maybe a little too much information. It doesn’t help Roslyn’s state of mind that a killer is on the loose and the records she is sorting include those of gruesome murder victims, complete with graphic police crime scene photos.
Told through a mix of conventional plot points, flashbacks, and delusional visions, the non-linear storyline creates an atmosphere of steadily mounting tension and dread. What the devil is happening to Roslyn? The solution lies within the hospital itself, but Roslyn may discover more than she wants to know when she probes the dark hallways and dusty records for an answer.
Psych 9 gets right to the point and stays on course without wasted footage. The audience is in for a surprise however, because what seems at first to be a typical, even bland haunted house or slasher story is anything but. The empty, ancient hospital is a backdrop and the slasher killings establish a context rather than constituting the story itself. Watching this picture is not unlike sitting down in the seat of a Ferris wheel, only to have the Ferris wheel unexpectedly transform into a roller-coaster.
Like any good amusement park thrill ride, the plot abruptly changes direction and tempo over and over again. As the story progresses it becomes apparent that what appears to be reality has been hallucination and vice versa. What is most compelling about Psych: 9 is not what happens and why, but how it happens.
The significance of the experience is the sense of disorientation Psych: 9 produces and the intriguing way it does so. The viewer will scramble to try to keep his bearing because the plot develops in a way that changes the essence of the story several times. Audiences will continually try to guess what is what, and who is who, only to start over as each succeeding plot point topples every assumption they’ve made.
Psych: 9 presents multiple ideas, each one of which could chart a separate course and storyline. All of these paths could be even more fully developed; doing so, however, would create a finished product that would be exhausting in length. The appeal of Psych: 9 is a matter of formalism. The form is one of writhing convolution, its effectiveness triggered by rapid-fire impact. Because the collective impact results from a successive blitzkrieg of surprises, a more thorough treatment of its subplots would be anticlimactic.
While Psych: 9 is a clever thriller, it is a psychological thriller, not an action thriller. It makes a slow start in order to set the stage and the artistry of its construction does not become evident until well into the film. Jaded splatter fans stand forewarned, and enthusiasts of clever horror which challenges the viewer to guess and think are encouraged.
WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:
“It aims to be a mystery, a ‘twist ending’ psycho-thriller, a gory horror flick, and a fractured character study at once. The parts rarely mesh. But it’s not a completely lost cause… for a film that’s fairly light on plot, Psych: 9 moves pretty well, keeps you guessing to some small degree (if only because there’s so much weird stuff going on), delivers a few juicy screenplay clunkers and arcane plot divergences, and features a solid little score.”–Scott Weinberg, Fear Net (DVD)
Psych: 9 trailer
Psych: 9 clip 1
Psych: 9 clip 2
More at the Psych 9 official YouTube page.