Psychos is a psychological horror thriller. It is written and directed by Sandy Chukhadarian and will be released for Video On Demand on the 17th of March via Leomark Studios. Sandy Chukhadarian has worked on popular programmes such as Entourage and Rome as well as writing and directing Corpus Christa, a popular short. She has also won awards already for the film, Psychos, winning Best Horror Film at the International Film Festival USA in 2015. In the same year, she also picked up a Best Director for Psychos at the Women’s Film Festival in California.
Psychos plays very much on the psychological side of horror. It is not a paranormal film. Nor is it about possession or other dimensions. Instead it deals with that most horrific of horrors. Humans and their fragile mental states.
Psychos starts off showing us two cops, arriving at a house to a disturbing scene. Those cops, played by Cliff Everett Smith (A Shot at Glory) and Monte James (The Miracle of Tony Davis), are shocked at what they find though at first there are just subtle hints as to what has really happened. We see a collection of DVD’s on the floor with the names JJ, Norma and Sasha scribbled on them. We also see broken items and blood stains. The carnage escalates as the officers move on to find a severed hand in a plant pot and then, as they make their way upstairs, a mutilated man strapped to a bed.
We leave the officers there and flash back to the events leading up to this carnage. This starts with us being introduced to 3 young, separate girls. It is these girls that the film mostly focuses on. It is their story. All 3 girls are clearly shown to be is a pretty messed up sate. At this point we have no real indication of their connection and have no real idea on their connection to the house the officers have entered.
We meet JJ, played by Deniele Cloutier (The Electrician) who is a bit of a goth. We see her being reprimanded, gently, by a professor and learn she is studying medicine. Here we also get a quick glimpse of scarred wrists before a later scene shows JJ baiting rat traps and torturing her captive rodents.
Then their is Sasha, played by Angelica Chitwood (The Chosen). Sasha is busy having money thrown at her while being called a whore. She is dressed provocatively, with a short skirt and black lipstick on. We then see her return to the home of another guy, Michael (Vince Peagler III), breaks into his house, and then offers him sex as soon as he gets a chance. Michael, who comes across as a supportive friend with benefits, isn’t impressed with her so Sasha instead resorts to playing with tarot cards.
Finally, we are introduced to the third girl, Norma who is played by Melissa Elena Jones (Hollywood Temptations). Norma seems a little less unstable than the previous two. We do first meet her being fired from her job teaching young children for threatening to lock a child in a cupboard for being naughty. Maybe she is a little unstable. We then see her asleep on a bench, arguing with a homeless man over how real her doll may be.
So, now we have met the rather disturbed main characters, we start to learn about how they are connected. This is all starts with each young girl receiving a video message. This video message depicts them all being horribly sexually abused. We soon find out the three girls were all held captive together at the hands of a sadistic man. They were beaten, raped and degraded before escaping. That was over ten years ago and we learn that the girls have basically blanked out most of what happened to them back then, separated from each other and tried to move on with their lives.
As we see the state of those lives, we clearly see they haven’t succeeded in moving on really.
The videos sent to the girls awaken a lot of old feelings and memories. They feel like they are being taunted with clips from their desperate past. Their memories of that time are locked away though they do reach out to each other and meet up. With Michael’s help, they track down the address that the videos were sent from. The girls decide to go to the address, break in, get the DVD’s back and move on from this chapter for good. Michael agrees to go with them to help though he may as well have stayed at home. He is a nice guy, just ends up being bloody useless.
The girls arrive at the house and we are treated to a few more flashes of the past. They see a glimpse of a couple leaving the house and the girls vaguely remember them as their captors and attackers. The couple leave in a car, the girls enter to find those DVD’s and Michael keeps watch. The girls are searching but cannot find anything, until they find a hidden door that heads up to the third level of the house. They actually spend more time bitching and fighting with each other in the house then searching. With the quieter Norma being the main target.
Michael, who has been very helpful so far suddenly become useless. Having provided them with hacking skills, accompanying them and even providing them with a body cam so he can monitor them in the house, he suddenly stops looking out for the returning nutters. Instead he is too involved in eating a Twinkie when the man returns.
Realising his mistake, he tries to contact the girls but fails so approaches the house. It doesn’t end well.
With Michael no longer able to help, the girls are discovered and the dangerous man, Larry Thornhill (Aubrey Wakeling) is besides himself with glee at having his girls home. When his wife, Rosie (Gwendoline Pere-Lahaille), returns, we quickly learn that she is as disturbed as her husband, if not more.
With Norma dragged off by Larry, with JJ and Sasha locked in a room, the situation seems completely hopeless. The perfect time to bring forth the shocking twist. One that you can’t possibly figure out from the start and one that you will have to watch the film to find out.
Psychos is a well thought out story. I like how it starts at the house with the two officers while we do not have a clue what is going on. I like how it ends at the same place and scene but with us now being fully aware. The twist in the story is good and kept well hidden until the time to reveal it was necessary.
In regards to horror, while the story is horrific, not much in the way of gore or the like is shown on the screen. There are a few deaths, even that of a toddler and plenty of cutting and stabbing but it is mostly all kept off screen. It is well acted with the roles of Larry, JJ, Sasha and Norma being particularly standout. Michael’s character was well acted but I thought he was a bit muddled, switching from an asset to an ass very quickly.
It looks good so I couldn’t possibly find fault with the filming or the music within Psychos.
To the negative though – which is only a partial negative and even one that had to happen, I think. I am going to explain this without spoilers so apologies if any of it seems a little vague. Now this story is clever. It is also, apparently, based on a true life event, though I can find nothing about it anywhere online. The story is built in a way that not everything can possibly make sense until the story is complete. What this means though is, that without knowing the end, some parts of the middle don’t add up.
Some interactions, some apparent time skips and some conversations just don’t make sense and because of this, I wasn’t really enjoying it. I thought the film maker to be taking liberties with the storyline and plot and was finding myself getting frustrated with it. Once the film ended, I was able to look back and understand why each thing happened. To that note, it is a well written film however, you do have to push your way through some confusing parts before the understanding comes.
The confusion takes away a little of the enjoyment, until the end. It even makes some of the characters unlikeable – especially Sasha. Again, only until understanding dawns at the end.
Like I said, not a real negative but something that sticks in my mind still afterwards. Strong beginning, confusing middle, strong ending that makes sense of the middle.
Psychos is a good film, with a strong story. When the last third hits and the revelation dawns on you, the whole film suddenly makes a lot of sense. You might find yourself a little frustrated at not figuring it out earlier. It can be a strange watch at times. It is essentially a movie cast of nutters. When it ends though, you will reflect on it positively. The confusion in the middle doesn’t make it a brilliant watch throughout though.
Still, a horrific story, told cleverly and a very strong use of the over used “start at the final scene”. Some other film makers could learn a lot from this one. Sometimes subtlety, committed actors and clever storytelling are all you need to make a good film. No jump scares or volume jumps required.
Sandy Chukhadarian is a writer to keep your eye on.