On the list of bad things that could happen to you at work, being one of the few doctors trapped in a mental institution as violent, criminal mental patients run amok is no doubt one you hope never, ever happens. Unfortunately for Dr. Helen Kingford (Jenna Verdicchio), that’s precisely the scenario she’s found herself in just as, wouldn’t you know it, it’s her final day before moving on to greener pastures. This particular institution is also in transition, and will be closing soon, with most of the patients and staff relocating to a newer facility.
Well, not all the staff, which is where the problems start. After being informed that he’s been let go and will not be making the transition to the new building, head of security Thomas (Steve Hope Wynne) begins hitting the drink, before taking out his anger on whoever is around (including trying to rape Dr. Kingford). After failing at the rape, he attempts to abuse a patient (Adam Lewis) in the medical lab instead, causing an accident with some chemicals and medical equipment, resulting in all manner of hell to break loose.
Somehow mentally altered by the experience, or perhaps his own issues heightened, Thomas (now with pitch black eyes) becomes the unstable ringleader for the violence to come. Locked down in the hospital, and with her friends and colleagues dead or dying, Dr. Kingford forms an unlikely alliance with a murderous inmate (Kristina Dargelyte) as the two try to escape alive.
Johnny Johnson’s Psychotic is a madhouse thriller that goes in a somewhat unexpected direction. Considering the potential of a story like this to include a number of truly unhinged former patients tormenting the good doctor, instead it’s a cat and mouse thriller where the main baddie is the head of security.
And, hello, who gave the guy that job? Of everything that happens in the film, the hardest pill to swallow is that anyone thought to give him responsibility, especially when it becomes clear that he’s not magically having mental issues of which those around him aren’t somewhat aware. Fired? How’d he get hired?
The film certainly has the potential to go in some violent and gory directions, but for the most part it is subdued. Sure, there is blood and some horrific moments, but mostly it’s the few survivors skulking around while Thomas and his small crew try to catch them. Almost a quiet affair at times, often playing up the suspense over spectacle.
Visually the film is composed well, and gets the most out of its old mental institution palette. It works to give a labyrinthian feel to the film, especially in scenes that actually involve the cavernous lower levels. Maze-like as it can be, folks do seem to know how to get around, it’s just a question of whether they can do it without being caught.
Overall, Psychotic is a solid thriller. I would’ve perhaps liked more patients, or more distinct personalities to work with than the handful we’re given, as once the herd thins it shrinks the cinematic world a bit too much. It would’ve been nice to mix it up more in that regard, though it is explained while the institution is not as populated on this day as it might have been, say, a week prior. In the end, though, it all comes together, with some fun twists and turns for good measure.
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