Review Date: May 25, 2009
Released by: Shriek Show
Release date: 4/28/2009
Region 1, NTSC
Full Frame 1.33:1
Film’s a real crapshoot. For every successful Hollywood filmmaker to emerge from the dodgy corners of eighties horror, like Sam Raimi, Thom Eberhardt, Joseph Zito, Ken Weiderhorn, Steve Miner, Roger Spottiswoode and Andrew Davis, there ten times as many overlooked. Some of the overlooked, like Madman
’s Joe Giannone, Next of Kin
’s Tony Williams, Offerings
’ Christopher Reynolds, Bloodbeat
’s Fabrice A. Zaphiratosi, and Final Exam
’s Jimmy Houston certainly deserved their shot. You can add Gorman Bechard to that elite list, too. Bechard began with the underrated chic chick slasher, Disconnected
, one of the true originals of the slasher boom. It’s his follow up, though, that gives the man his modest cult following today: Psychos in Love
Long a midnight and VHS favorite, Psychos in Love
has been slow to come to DVD in the western world. There was a small release over in Europe, and instead of being paid in cash for it, Bechard was paid in PAL DVDs, which he subsequently sold on eBay to 300 lucky buyers. A cool collectors piece, no doubt, but it’s about to become obsolete with this new packed special edition from Shriek Show. The DVD is stacked, but when it comes to the movie…is there much to love?
The film begins with a sort of documentary confessional, as Joe (co-screenwriter and composer Carmine Capobianco
) opens up to the camera saying “the first three even caught me by surprise”. Cut to three quick and bloody murders, one in a bathroom stall, one in a forest and one in a bedroom. And all this before the two minute mark. Now that’s how you start a flick! So then we find out the obvious, that he’s a psychotic killer, and then the not so obvious, that he’s looking for love. He thinks he’s found the perfect match when he describes her gorgeous physique, but unfortunately she has one tragic flaw – she likes…err, liked, grapes. With her dead, that leaves Joe once again at the starting chopping block…alone.
Then in walks Katie (Debi Thibeault
, director Bechard’s wife at the time). She pulls up a seat at Joe’s bar, and the attraction is immediate. To test the waters, he offers her a glass of wine, to which she responds how much she loathes grapes. It’s a match made in heaven. But how on earth will Joe be able to tell her his deadly little secret and still salvage a relationship? Easy. She’s a killer too. Offing the male demographic with similar candor, she can easily hold her own against the bloody bartender. Once together they make Bonnie and Clyde look like Laverne and Shirley, luring unsuspectings back to their house to quell their murderous urges. What happens when the honeymoon’s over, though? Will they be at each other’s throats…literally?
Complications arise when they both decide to start “seeing” other people, for what once became just another death job suddenly gets bogged down in petty jealousies. Then, shortly after, Joe loses the motivation to continue killing. There’s no Viagra to cure that sort of impotence. Making matters worse, there’s a plumber who’s been stealing their spotlight by offing house call clients. Sure enough, the two lovers find themselves in need of said plumber when their sink backs up from one too many severed fingers lodged within the piping. They’ve already proven they’d kill for each other, but it’s here that their love will face the ultimate test.
Gorman Bechard is a fine director, and here he is able to do as he did with Disconnected
by making the low budget realities of his production a virtue rather than vice. Disconnected
had a punky, counter culture rhythm to the jumpy editing and the cheap and dirty story and cinematography. With Psychos in Love
, Bechard utilizes a mix of grainy film stocks, a full frame aspect ratio and rudimentary lighting schemes to help sell realism when the subject matter points to anything but. From the looking into the camera confessionals to the plotless moments of improvisation, the film has a real direct and seemingly unfiltered relationship with the audience. It’s candid, and even when it’s breaking the fourth wall, it feels natural and organic.
Capobianco and Thibeault make a perfect pair, and both give wonderfully natural performances; always vulnerable and never confined by script or expectation. It always feels as if every scene, no matter the conceit, is unfolding for the first time right there on screen as it would in a documentary. Both are so charismatic that you want them to find love despite the fact that they’re homicidal murderers. Of course, accolades must go to the script, too, for the way it dodges the cliché by presenting the killers as level-headed and likeable characters. These aren’t over the top maniacs cackling after every sentence, nor are they simpleton crazies of the Ezra Cobb order – they’re just honest, observant and actually endearing people. When it comes to horror, the genre works almost exclusively with stereotypes, but Psychos in Love
proves that you can stray far, far away and still produce compelling cinema.
Another way that Bechard transforms his small budget into a plus is the way he handles the plot. When you’ve got a small, finite amount of film, you’ve got to be economical with the presentation, and Bechard does good in finishing in minutes what some filmmakers do in half hours. The plot moves at a speedy pace, so that 88 minutes spent with the leads is able to span days and days worth of relationship development. It makes it that much easier to identify with the leads, since such a large part of their life has been condensed on the screen. Of course, it also means that there are a ton of deaths crammed into this little ditty too, and Bechard has a lot of fun cutting right to the money rather than lingering on setup. Again, in a movie that bucks conventions with its characters, it does so too with its murders and its general approach to horror.
Psychos in Love
is a quirky little film, and it’s tough to really put the appeal into words. From the synopsis, it sounds like one of those movies that could easily implode admiring its own eccentricities. It could have been like Rob Zombie’s Grindhouse
trailer, so infatuated with its high concept that it forgets to entertain. But entertain it certainly does, and it goes a step further by even becoming endearing. I found myself smiling a lot during this movie, laughing along at their ludicrous hatred for grapes and actually compelled by the open demeanor of the two leads. Creating entertainment is one thing, but with Psychos in Love
Bechard manages what few films are able to do, and that’s to captivate, touch and move with a magical whimsy that direct cinema can allow. It’s a small, special little film – hell, when’s the last time I used “whimsy” in a horror review? See it.
Part of what makes the film work at such a direct level is the rough, no frills visual approach that borrows a documentary aesthetic. That look is certainly not hampered here by Shriek Show’s full frame 1.33:1 presentation. All the grain, specs and debris are intact. It looks rough around the edges, but that’s not to say that the materials are shoddy, by any means. Color retention is very strong, evident by the vibrant oranges always present in Thibeault’s hair. Colors look solid, and the film looks as sharp as it can without causing any pixel blocking or edge artifacting. The film won’t win any restoration awards – it definitely looks its age, but for a film so embedded in a time and a low budget aesthetic, it’s as good as it should look.
Nothing fancy about this English mono track, but it’s clear and surprisingly well recorded for such a low budget picture. Carmine Capobianco’s eclectic and catchy music all comes through nicely in this mix as well. There’s surprisingly little to no hiss or distortion to any of the mix, it sounds very sharp, if flat.
If you ever wanted to know more about Gorman Bechard, the extras here certainly expose the man behind the camera. Before we even get into the film specific extras, and there are a lot of them, there’s a full screen of content for his other artistic endeavors, whether it is short films, trailers or even promos for his novels (which have been his bread and butter ever since he finished his tumultuous tenure with Empire studios). It’s nice to see that regardless of which genre he’s working in, his independent and confessional storytelling spirit makes its way into whatever the project. It’s been said you can learn a lot about a man through his art, but I’d say you can learn even more by listening to two of his commentaries back to back!
Bechard first goes solo in discussing the film, and his commentary certainly doesn’t hold anything back. He goes into his artistic history, how he signed up for film school and realized he’d learn more just making a movie, which produced Disconnected
. He then talks about how Psycho
was his ticket to bigger movies, but also bigger heartache as he saw several of his subsequent works compromised by producers. If you want a taste, check out his IMDb review of his own Cemetery High
for perspective. Bechard is very candid about his career, even when it comes down to his failed relationship with his Katie, Debi Thibeault. When he talks about Psychos in Love
though, he describes the film and the process of its making with such a passion that it’s clear to see why it became such a success.
The next commentary pairs Bechard with the co-writer, musician and actor in the film Carmine Capobianco. It’s a welcome reunion for the two, since they collaborated for almost all of Bechard’s films in the eighties, only to lose touch for several years since. They are both as friendly and jovial as ever, constantly cracking jokes and just having a ball with the material. They were both so invested in the film that they still remember even the most finite of detail, so with every laugh comes an equal amount of information about the production. It’s a delight to listen to.
Perhaps the coolest extra are some film excerpts from a stage play that was inspired by the movie. It had a run in Stuart Gordon’s Broom Street Theater of all places, and while the actors certainly don’t compare with those in the film, it’s pretty interesting to see another take on the material, and it actually works quite well with the minimalist stage approach. It’s great that we get to see several scenes from the actual play here, too, considering previous supplements to talk about stage adaptations (like the one found on the Carrie
DVD) never even show the performance. All told, this runs 13-minutes.
There’s also the original making-of directed by Shaun Cashman that was shot on Betacam during the run of production. It’s even got those cheesy video graphics that you could make in camera at the time, like the ones found in Boardinghouse. There are plenty of amusing on-set interviews with the cast and crew, where the fun they had on set seeps through this little featurette. Like the stage play piece, this too runs 13-minutes.
Next are some extended scenes, most of which are pretty bad. They are mostly extended cuts of the opening murders, just with more exposition, which goes against everything that made them so effective and entertaining in the first place. There are also extended scenes of several other moments, from the romance montage to some of the backstory of the plumber. Many of the extras loop in and out of sound and often change quality. Considering the cobbled together nature of all these pieces, it would have been nice to have some sort of textual pretext, or even better some commentary from Bechard. As they are presented here, it’s more a curiosity rather than entertaining or informative. Tallied up, they run 10-minutes.
There are alternate opening credits accessible as well, and they actually look to be in better quality than the ones that made it into the final film. Rounding off the disc are promotional items, including the trailer, a photo gallery and pieces for other Shriek Show DVDs. The Shriek Show trailers include: Love Me Deadly
, The Dark Ride
(which has the awesome tagline “This is Laura…she should have known.”), The Chilling
, One Dark Night
, Terror Circus
, The Hazing
, Posed for Murder
(“if I had a girlfriend like that I’d be slipping her the beef all night!”), The Disturbance
, and Death Collector
It’s too bad Debi Thibeault was not made available for interviews, because it’s her absence that’s the only glaring omission from this still stellar special edition that will surely please fans new and old.
Psychos in Love
is one of those rare horror comedies that gets laughs not from absurdity, but instead from genuinely likable characters. The film’s got a quirky and low budget approach all its own, and at a time when the horror genre was burning out on excess, it proves that even in 1987 there was still plenty of originality to go around with small budgets and simple stories. The presentation this DVD is equally as modest, although the colors look great and the sound is remarkably hiss free. There’s much to…love about the supplements, too, with two commentaries, a making-of and even footage from a stage play adaptation. With so many horror distributors stung by the recession it’s rare to find any new horror product released today, let alone something as good as this little gem. Support the small guys and give Shriek Show some much deserved love for this wonderful little DVD.
Movie - B+
Image Quality - B+
Sound - B
Supplements - A-
- Running time - 1 hour 28 minutes
- Not rated
- 1 Disc
- Chapter Stops
- English mono
- Audio commentary with director Gorman Bechard
- Audio commentary with director Gorman Bechard and actor Carmine Capobianco
- "Making Psychos in Love" featurette
- "Psychos in Love: The Stage Play" featurette
- Alternate opening credits
- Extended scenes
- Other works from Gorman Bechard
- Shriek Show trailers
- Theatrical trailer
- Photo gallery