Who knew an independent low-budget horror film could actually be a letdown…
by Adam Miller
In THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT a bunch of college kids run around with handheld cameras. In THE ADVENTURES OF BUCKAROO BANZAI ACROSS THE EIGHTH DIMENSION campy, self-aware characters cross into an alternate dimension. In PSYCLOPS, a bunch of campy, self-aware college kids run around with handheld cameras and cross into an alternate dimension; the best of both worlds it ain’t. But then, maybe this fusing of genres is exactly what this film is going for. After all, the protagonist winds up with a camera literally fused to his head.
My expectations for this film were raised in its opening minutes. The film is made to look like old black and white stock of the usual mad professor standing in front of a contraption he refers to as “the apparatus.” Now, when the word “apparatus” is used in a film, academics’ antennae go up because, according to some theory much of mainstream cinema is designed to cause the viewer to forget the apparatus (the camera, the editing, the projection, etc.). Thus said academics lurv it when they think they’re seeing a movie which is aware of the film theory which supposedly undergirds it. By just watching the first scene, one could be forgiven for thinking that PSYCLOPS is one of those movies. While watching, I notice the camera is being handheld (it’s moving and shaking as the scientist speaks) leaving me with the impression that there is actually another human being in the room with the professor who will become a major character later on. My own awareness of the apparatus of the film camera makes me believe this and this movie just might be smart enough to have the left that clue for me, and, and oh isn’t it fun being in-the-know? You and me movie, we’re going to best of friends!
No such luck.
After this opening scene the movie goes down the tube real fast. We fast-forward to current day and the day-in-the-life of obnoxious college student Shep who has recently acquired a new handheld camera. He uses this to film his sleeping/showering female college friends. Yeah, amateur actresses’ boobies! In other words, the academic wet dream I had in the film’s first scene is obliterated by the fat-fingered fumblings of GIRLS GONE WILD: NERD EDITION. Oh well. Far, far, far too much time is spent watching Shep’s antics and grating sense of humor. I am unsurprised the film’s producers decided to throw in a few nipple slips to make up for (in their minds) the painful writing. Shep’s humor as best described as condescending nihilism. Which begs the question, where the hell do nihilists get off being condescending? Isn’t that a conflict of terms? One character repeatedly asks Shep to turn his camera off. Shep refuses. Shep’s camera gets broken. Shep gets upset. What did Shep think would happen?
Anyway, Shep and his small band of college friends come upon the Professor’s “apparatus.” It is in fact a machine which opens a portal to another dimension. The effects of this are two-fold. One, in Shep’s case, is that you get a camera fused to the side of your head. Two, is that small potatoes with legs get teleported into the present (see poster image for said potatoes). That’s about it. And that’s about all that’s left of the film. Shep is eventually destroyed but his old college buddies forgive his insanity—he was teleported to another dimension after all! But of course this being a “horror” movie, there has to be a coda. In this case, the coda is of Shep speaking from beyond the grave via video tape (a la SCREAM 2) and then laughing. Fin.