The wobbly aesthetics of the so-called midnight movie can be seen on primetime TV every time David Caruso adjusts his sunglasses, so there’s nothing particularly alarming about “Hysterical Psycho,” a movie that was probably a lot more fun to make than it is to watch. Dan Fogler, making his screen helming debut (the film’s Studio 13 is an offshoot of his Stage 13 theater troupe), tries, and fails, to reanimate a genre that has come, gone and been put in a jar of formaldehyde. Exposure in any medium will be limited.
The pic’s biggest failure — aside from the fact that it’s incredibly noisy when it should be funny — is that it tries to parody something that began spoofing itself long ago. The kids-at-the-lakefronthomicidal-maniac format has been mocked almost as long as it’s been in existence. Fogler’s feeble stab at satire doesn’t puncture anything, because there’s very little left to puncture.
The opening is certainly novel — an animated sequence introducing the film’s occasional narrator, a Hitchcockian tie-and-tails-wearing windbag who waxes oratorical on the moon, and the ancient roots of lunacy. More of him and fewer seasick camera moves would have helped the film immensely. But the link to Hitchcock’s “Psycho” is established, as is the fact that Moon Lake — where the pic’s hapless wayfaring corpses-to-be are headed — is pulsing with lunar radiation, which makes people do strange things.
Those strange things won’t include paying $10 for this movie, but they are strange: Lenny (Randy Baruh) has a troubling attachment to his mother and is suspiciously soft-spoken for a guy in a theater troupe. The actors have decided that a trip to the Maine woods is just what they need. Now, if you’re a member of any conglomeration of young people, and someone suggests taking a van to a lake for a weekend, your radar should immediately go off. Not these yokels.
The cast in general is very good — Jeremy Silver as Woody the Groundskeeper is hilarious — but they can’t save the neck of the movie from the swinging blade of irrelevance.
Production values are conscientiously haphazard.