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October 2010


cast: Charisma Carpenter, Paul Sculfor, Ricci Harnett, Bernard Kay, Sean Chapman, and Axelle Carolyn

director: Reg Traviss

89 minutes (18) 2009
widescreen ratio 1.78:1
Lions Gate DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 5/10
review by Paul Higson


Well, this is a bit of a rum do! Reg Traviss' Psychosis (aka: Vivid) is one curious fish of a movie and is full of surprises if never actually inventive. Surprise number one is that this be a British movie, something easily overlooked as films tumble out of nowhere and this one stars Charisma Carpenter. The Britishness is almost immediately apparent as the film opens on five young activists traipsing a snow-blanched track and are overheard identifying the location of a planned motorway that will cut through precious countryside.

They initiate a protest camp... correction, a protest tent. These be wooded areas a psychopath is nature rambling them and proceeds to cut a bloody swathe through the good-looking and randy eco-warriors until only one of them remains. She is rescued by a handy farmer who maims the psycho with a shotgun blast. Surviving the injury, he is locked up for good.

Character, script, sex and gore - all manage to be dull. Not a good start. The story shifts forward several years and settles into another old, tired premise, that of the novelist, Susan Golda (Carpenter) who has suffered a breakdown and the answer to this, of course, is to move to the middle of nowhere for the completion of her next novel. It is a big and remote building too - the film shot largely at Shapwick House in Somerset, with some of the local accent brought into it via supporting characters. Some 20 minutes in and neither the dialogue nor the story logic show any signs of improvement.

Susan and husband, David (Paul Sculfor), will reside in the big building alone, and the only member of staff is a strange gamekeeper, Peck (Ricci Harnett of 28 Days Later), though David neglects to inform his wife of this, in order to provide a lurid and 'thrill' targeted introduction later. Class is added to the cast with the addition of octogenarian actor Bernard Kay as the Reverend Swan, who drops by to welcome the couple.

The couple meanwhile are upstairs getting lusty. Bad editing makes it appear that the couple do not hear him call out for attention but respond instead to the sound of him sitting on the staircase taking a swig from a hip flask. He is also treated to one of those bad movie cups of tea where he is given his hot drink, there is a brief exchange, and then he is up and out again in 20 seconds.

During that time he talks about the worst of today's errant kids; not hoodies and chavs, but squatters and eco-warriors. Her visiting agent Charles (Richard Raynesford, who also one of this film's producers) talks about changes to the ending of the novel but then later appears not to have seen even the first draft. The film is at this stage becoming very painful. The only question I am asking myself at this point is what on earth is Charisma Carpenter doing slumming it up in this bland, amateurish tripe.

Then something happens. It doesn't make for a better film but it certainly makes for a more interesting shambles. From the window, Susan sees a 'boy' playing kick-about with a football, informs her husband, then turns back to the window to find that the boy is gone (they repeatedly call him a boy, but he is obviously too tall for such a description). The boy is seen again through a window and the film cuts quickly to an exterior shot with Susan going out to confront him only to find the boy has vanished again.

This has a familiar ring to it, perceivable as something of a steal from Stanley Long's short film Dreamhouse, which later formed the middle section of the compendium horror feature film Screamtime (credited to Al Beresford, but actually Stanley Long, who had directed all three shorts) only with the child on a tricycle replaced by a boy with a football. Then two thefts are followed by another as she hears noises in the night and sends her husband to investigate.

On the second noise in the night investigation a mystery figure hurtles past her. More than a little influence has obviously been had. The closing credits reveal that these are no simple borrowings but that this is an acknowledged adaptation based on Michael Armstrong's original Dreamhouse screenplay, only adaptation here translating as taking out all the best bits and adding nothing of additional value.

Thrown into the mix is the bad husband, a complete villain living off the riches of others, trying to drive his wife insane (a la Dominique) in order to gain complete access to her wealth (they have a joint account, Liquid Gold with the Halifax, no doubt). David is part of a sleazy set, straight out of The Principals Of Lust or a modern day Hellfire Club, whoring it up in the city under the pretence that he is away working.

Susan's introduction to the gamekeeper Peck comes during a woodland amble when she walks in on him in mid-rut with Emily (Ty Glaser). Peck then he pursues her exhibiting his schlong and continuing the pursuit. This is absurdly laughed off by David as a bit of old country physical variant banter who tries to persuade Sudan that the Basra/ Kabul war veteran is harmless. Eventually, Susan - preposterously, despite reservations, lets Peck in to prepare her a meal while her husband is away... which allows him the opportunity to lace the stew with magic mushrooms.

Those familiar with the original short film or Screamtime will know how the story develops and ends. Naturally, that shock twist has less impact here as the victim in the original film was a loyal husband and not the slime-ball deserving of his bloody fate. The phantom family that appear time and again in visions that are both routine and horrific are replaced by a different and more curious household in the remake.

The lad painting the window frames returns and his murder is almost identical. But here the role is performed by Justin Hawkins, of The Darkness, and he is not the only ill-fitting face in an oddball cast. Sean Chapman (of Hellraiser) turns up for one scene as a detective, Axelle Carolyn pops up briefly, and even Eileen Pollock (Lilo Lil of Bread) turns up to do a Zelda Rubinstein on the premises. The cinematographer is Bryan Lofthus who is workmanlike but never did make the most of the initial prominence brought to him in the filming of A Company Of Wolves. Psychosis is a mess but it is an interesting mess.

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