Shoestring psychological thriller is a bit too silly and poorly acted to attract a big audience.

As ambitious as it is amateurish, shoestring psychological thriller “Dreamkiller” would ooze a scrappy let’s-put-on-a-show charm, if only its subject matter didn’t include an elderly man having his hand shoved into a garbage disposal. Unleashed Feb. 19 in limited release, this film from young director Catherine C. Pirotta is a bit too silly and poorly acted to attract a significant audience, but one has to respect the effort.

“Dreamkiller” stars Dario Deak (who wildly overuses his “smoldering eyes” look, yet fares better than his co-stars) as Nick, a lothario neuroscientist working on a classified project in which test subjects are inoculated against personal phobias through computer-controlled hypnosis, all at the behest of a shadowy corporation. Before you can say “what could possibly go wrong,” these subjects begin dying in ways that closely mirror their phobias, Nick begins suffering slow-mo hallucinations, a sexy redhead detective (Penny Drake) appears on the scene, and Nazi doctor Josef Mengele makes a quick cameo — hilarity ensues . Film’s tiny budget is easy to divine from its patchy technical quality, but the pic’s crew acquit itself well enough with what it has.

Dreamkiller

Production

A Delaware Pictures production. Produced by Stephane Mermet. Executive producer, Clyde Ware. Co-producer, Erika Furuzono. Directed by Catherine C. Pirotta. Screenplay, Pirotta, Clyde Ware.

Crew

Camera (color), John O'Shaughnessy; editor, Richard Hasley; music, Marcus Sjowall; production designer, Miguel Gomez; art director, Cory Speer. Reviewed at Beverly Center 13, Los Angeles, March 1, 2010. MPAA Rating: R. Running time: 111 MIN.

With

Dario Deak, John Colton, Penny Drake, Kelly Chambers, Nick Rish, Diandra Newlin, John Savage.

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