Review of Psychosis

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In 1992 a group of young Anarchists braved the snow covered wilderness to set up camp against the construction of a motorway by-pass. A terrible fate awaited them. 15 years later Susan, a successful horror novelist and sensitive soul relocates from her native California to the rural English countryside in search of peace. The newly-wed finds it in an idyllic, remote Hamlet. It is here that Susan's living nightmare unfolds.
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Movie Review: "Psychosis"

-- Rating: R (bloody violence, strong sexuality, nudity, language)
Length: 89 minutes
Release Date: January 11, 2011
Directed by: Reg Traviss
Genre: Crime/Horror/Mystery

Charisma Carpenter showed a penchant for fast talking and butt kicking in the Joss Whedon television series "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and later in its spinoff, "Angel." It is anyone's guess as to why she didn't continue to pursue fantasy or horror parts after each series ended, since she was obviously so good at both genres. With "Psychosis," she finally returns to those roots to take on the supernatural again in a horror flick that is big on suspense and scares.

The movie centers on Carpenter's character Susan Golden, a successful novelist who lives a fast-paced life in London. She is a newlywed, and though she obviously adores husband David (Paul Sculfor), juggling her new marriage, her recent relocation from California to England, and an impending book deadline is beginning to take a toll on her mentally. She is exhausted and longs for some peace and quiet, so a quaint old farmhouse in the countryside may be just the ticket.

The house is located in an area where several teenagers disappeared years before, never to be seen again. They were apparently anarchists who were trying to protest the building of a road through the pristine woods in the area. The film never tells the audience exactly what happens to them, but it is implied that they were brutally murdered.

Soon after settling into the new house, David must return to work in London, leaving Susan alone all day until he returns at night. During her alone time, she begins to run into locals like Peck (Ricci Harnett), who she finds to be creepy. She also sees a teenager playing soccer in the front yard, or at least she thinks she does. When she runs out to tell him to play elsewhere, he is nowhere to be found. She tells David about these things, but he thinks that she is just letting her writer's imagination run wild.

The mysterious sightings begin to escalate, with only Susan there to witness them. She starts to question her sanity as she slowly devolves into a paranoid, hysterical wreck. It doesn't help that David begins stepping out on her, which causes her fall into madness to quicken. Will Susan finally figure out the haunting past that is behind her sightings, or will she be yet another victim of the apparent curse that has been placed on the house and surrounding area?

Carpenter gets to stretch her acting muscle as Susan, who does a complete transformation before the film is over. In the beginning, she is somewhat arrogant, a byproduct of the writing success that has gone to her head. The audience gradually finds out that she has a troubled past, so some of her bigheaded actions are likely a mask for past heartache. She is part fearless and part bravado, which really humanizes her. As the film progresses, and she becomes more terrified by what is happening to her, she breaks down and becomes much more humble. At one point, she is committed to a mental institution, which lets Carpenter show off her dramatic skills. It is good that Carpenter convincingly portrays each of these iterations of Susan, since she is in nearly every scene and has to carry the film on her shoulders. Thankfully, she pulls it off beautifully.

Sculfor makes his acting debut here, after years of being a top male model. The transition from modeling to acting can be a tricky one, but Sculfor pulls it off. His character, David, begins as a devout husband and transforms into something of a monster by the end. Director Reg Traviss did an excellent job of teasing out a good performance from the newbie actor.

Traviss also does a fine job with the camera work on the film, being sure to show the British countryside in all its glory. His gorgeous shots of the house and the wilderness that envelopes it only serves to make the scary events of the film seem that much more vivid. He also uses a variety of framing shots to convey the different scenes. During the bloodier slasher scenes, he uses a jerky camera style that is reminiscent of the Jason Bourne films. It is a great choice that really adds to the suspense and chaos of the scenes and helps to keep the audience guessing as to what is going on and what may happen next.

Rating 2 out of 5