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April 2011

Psych: 9

cast: Sara Foster, Cary Elwes, Michael Biehn, Gabriel Mann, and Colleen Camp

director: Andrew Shortell

93 minutes (18) 2010
widescreen ratio 2.35:1
Universal DVD Region 2

RATING: 3/10
review by Mark West

Psych: 9

Roslyn (Sara Foster) has spent the last five years working in a busy ER so, in a bid to calm her life down, she takes a night job, sorting files in a recently closed down hospital. Her husband, Cole (Gabriel Mann) works the night-shift as a cab-driver, so Roslyn hopes this'll give them more time together. Unfortunately, there's a serial sex attacker running around, whom the papers (and cops) have labelled the Night-Hawk and all of his attacks seem centred around the hospital. Left to her own devices, with only Dr Irvin Clement (Cary Elwes) - who's working up on the fifth floor, also sorting files - and a creepy security guard (Ryan James) for company, plus Detective Marling (Michael Biehn) who starts calling in, Roslyn begins to mentally unravel. Her relationship with her husband, already strained by her apparent inability to have children, gets worse, as she starts seeing and hearing things and, when the Night-Hawk strikes again, it appears that everyone she knows might be the culprit.

Written like that, this actually sounds like a cracking little movie, creepy and suspenseful, full of menacing atmosphere and the potential for serious scares. Unfortunately, I've done a better job of writing this up than Andrew Shortell has of making the film. It's terrible. It really is. Roslyn's mental state worsens almost as soon as she starts her job, helped by regular conversations with Dr Clement - who, conveniently enough, is a psychiatrist which makes you wonder why he's spending his nights sorting out files. It soon becomes clear that she was abused as a child by her father and, after killing him, she was badly burned (well, a few scars on her back) by her mother (Susie Amy, 'Chardonnay', from Footballers' Wives, according to my good lady wife), whereupon she became an orphan.

So who's the creepy kid she sees wandering the halls, and who's the Night-Hawk, and why is her husband acting nicely one moment, menacingly the next? Well, even if I wanted to, I couldn't tell you. This is such a confused mess of a film that nothing makes any sense - and even in dream logic, there has to be some kind of sense - and, worse, the viewer gets to the stage that he/ she simply doesn't care.

Sara Foster spends the whole film pouting and looking miserable and it's very difficult to feel sympathy for her, you just want to keep shouting at her to smile once in a while. Cary Elwes does his worst Cary Elwes impression, Michael Biehn looks as if he's trying but can't make the dialogue sound anything other than routine and mundane, and Gabriel Mann seems to think he's in two films at once.

The direction is flat and uninspired, seeming to confuse Dutch angles with the building of tension. The production design is good, but it's often clouded by a terrible colour palette which doesn't help the film at all. The interiors are filtered with drab greens and browns, making it seem very depressing, and yet Roslyn's apartment (remember that they both work the night shift?) is always bright and sunny, and in fact, the only exterior daytime shot is of Cole's cab. The scares consist of 'ooh, there's someone in the corridor' and the biggest shock of all, in a TV monitor, actually appears as part of the menu sequence. The story completely avoids some interesting angles (does Roslyn believe she can't have children because she had an abortion?), whilst ladling on the sleaze of child abuse in a way that feels tawdry and exploitative and that doesn't help at all.

Worst of all, the film is boring. Not in that it's very talky - and it is, there's really not a lot of action at all - because there are some excellent films where it's a couple of people chatting over a table, but that it completely loses its pace in the middle. Since miserable Roslyn is so difficult to care for, there's no tension as she hears noises and has a breakdown, and the Night-Hawk gets ignored apart from when he's key to the plot.

Which brings us to the ending... I won't reveal it here because a) it doesn't make any sense and seems to be deliberately confusing, and b) by the time it rolled around, I couldn't really be bothered who the killer was (unless, in true Scooby-Doo fashion, one of the five culprits had pulled off a mask). Psych: 9 is a drab looking film, filled with glum, miserable characters, so it's difficult to know who'd actually enjoy this. It's not recommended at all.

Incredibly, the film has three major extras. There are 22 minutes of outtakes (22 minutes!), but all these go to prove is that the cast looks as if it had as much fun making it as I did watching it; 35 minutes of deleted scenes (nothing exciting in there), and a 20-minute 'video diary' titled Who Is Andrew Shortell? Well, it turns out he's an Englishman, who says 'um' a lot and believes he's making a top-class supernatural thriller. How I wished, over those 20 minutes I'll never get back, that someone had just turned to him and said 'no, mate, you're not.'



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