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Psychic Experiment (2010)

DVD Released: 12/6/2010

All Ratings out of
Movie: 1/2

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 12/11/2011

If you've ever seen Mystery Science Theater 3000 (and hopefully you have), then you know that Joel/Mike and the robots like to make fun of the movies which they watch. They critique the acting, the writing, the directing, the sets, and most anything that they can. This can seem very cruel at times, but every once in a while, they actually offer constructive criticism. One of the best pieces of advice which they ever gave a movie was, "Just because you can edit, doesn't mean you should edit." This is a nugget of truth which every movie should take to heart, no more so than Psychic Experiment.

Typically the easiest part of writing a review is doing the synopsis, but that's not the case with Psychic Experiment. I just watched the movie and I'm not sure what it was about. Here is what I remember: Dr. Cole Gray (Denton Blane Everett) moves back to his hometown to take a job at a facility which is run by Louise Strack (Adrienne King). The town has been experiencing unusual phenomena, including sinkholes. Phil (James LaMarr) and his friends are amateur investigators who have been looking into the strange occurrences and they are especially concerned about the fact that convicted child molester Joseph Webber (Reggie Bannister) lives down the street from them. Cole is happy to see some old friends, but not his mother (Debbie Rochon), who abused him as a child. Without warning (literally), people who are on fire begin attacking the citizens of the town, and soon the whole place becomes bedlam as it's revealed that citizens with psychic powers are being driven to kill.

If, for some reason, you're ever involved in a medical insurance scam where you must convince someone that they have epilepsy, then simply show them Psychic Experiment, and they'll be convinced that they are having seizures. I know that I was. Writer/Director Mel House also served as editor on this film, so he has no one to blame for this diabolical mess than himself. Every scene made me feel as if I'd changed the channel and had suddenly come into the middle of a movie. Characters aren't introduced, situations aren't explained, and conclusions are never reached. This isn't a movie which is vague for the sake of art, this is simply a movie which is headed nowhere. Within each of these scenes, House has decided to quickly cut Michael Bay-style between the actors' faces, objects, and backgrounds, creating a jigsaw which gives the feeling that a lot is happening, but nothing is.

This editing approach creates a movie which is essentially inscrutable, but I don't know if anything could have made the movie easier to comprehend. The combination of an evil corporation, sinkholes, a child molester, and people on fire never adds up...not even close. The basic issue here is that the movie never bothers to give us any information. What does this facility supposedly do? Where was Cole living before and why was he with Katie Featherston of Paranormal Activity fame? What were the sinkholes? Webber being a child molester adds nothing to the story, so why include it? The list of questions goes on and on.

So, in case you aren't getting the picture, Psychic Experiment is a big ole mess of a movie. And yet, what is worst than that? When a bad movie shows a flicker of quality. There is a scene in the film where Webber goes to a store and finds himself on the toy aisle, where a hallucination comes vividly to life. The suddenly animated toys are actually creepy and the scene shows a great deal of creativity. But, then the scene keeps going, turning into an odd orgy of blood. Why? Why not quit when you are ahead? (Not all of the visuals are creative. The inflamed assailants look just like Sam Neill from the finale of Event Horizon.) Psychic Experiment also mixes dark, mostly cheap looking photography with a surprising amount of CG. I know that CG is getting less expensive and easier to do, but I was surprised by the amount in the movie. (Although, the fact that the facility is clearly a school pulled me even further out of the movie.)

I'm often willing to give low-budget horror movies the benefit of the doubt, but Psychic Experiment is a true turkey. There is nothing appealing about the movie, save for the fact that it would make the perfect bad-movie party fodder. Which brings us back to Mystery Science Theater 3000.

Psychic Experiment shows us the world's worst news report...twice...on DVD courtesy of Lionsgate. The film has been letterboxed at 1.78:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The image is somewhat sharp and clear, showing no defects from the source material. However, there is a slight amount of grain present. The colors look OK, although they aren't very vibrant. This is most likely due to the fact that the image is somewhat dark. The edges are soft and the picture doesn't pop with detail. The DVD carries a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which provides clear dialogue and sound effects. Given the lackluster visuals, this is a pretty good track, as we get some overt surround sound effects during the horror sequences and the stereo effects do a nice job of illustration some off-screen sounds.

The Psychic Experiment DVD contains a few extras. We begin with an AUDIO COMMENTARY from Writer/Director Mel House and Shannon Lark, Debbie Rochon, Reggie Bannister, Denton Blane Everett, and Melanie Donihoo. "Burned Guys & Dolls: Behind the Scenes of Psychic Experiment" (17 minutes) informs us that the movie was originally called "Walking Distance". What the hell does that mean? The piece offers interviews with House and the crew, as they discuss the making of the film. We get an overview of the cast and characters, as well as a look at the makeup effects, all the while including on-set footage. The DVD includes seven DELETED/EXTENDED SCENES which run about 17 minutes and can be viewed with optional commentary from House and Donihoo. The final extra is the TRAILER for the film.

Review Copyright 2011 by Mike Long