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STUDIO: Static Omega Films and AMP/Diamond Dust Studios
MSRP:
$20
RATED: Unrated
RUNNING TIME: 93 minutes
SPECIAL
FEATURES:

•Trailer
•Behind the scenes featurette
•FX test footage
•Promotional artwork gallery


The Pitch

Gotta watch out for those rotoscopic
drugs.

The Humans

Director: Damien Sage
Writer: Sergio
Mauroforte
Cast: Damien Sage, Braden West, Tiffany Titmouse, Kurtwood
Jones, Bruce Delrich, Iza Rose, Aeryn Süin, Michael Valentine,
Artemicion Zirconia, Bob Frezza, Maximillian Magick

The Nutshell

A
guy locked up in a futuristic asylum is forced to take drugs and relive
his forgotten past in a series of psychedelic dreams.

The Lowdown

Here’s
something I’d not yet seen: a cross between a B-movie and an
experimental film. I’ve seen B-movies that walked a bit on the
avante-garde side of things, but never can I recall one with major elements of
experimental film in it. Psychotropica sometimes creates fascinating results in this odd pairing, but often fails to master its two trades.


No doubt loosely inspired by the classic Nigerian movie “Baby Police”.


It’s
essentially a series of dream sequences framed by an interrogation. Our
protagonist, known only as “The Patient,” (played by the director,
Damien Sage) is locked up in an ominous skyscraper where he is being
studied by “The Doctor” (Maximillian Magick). The Patient is forced to
take a drug called “psychotropica” every night, (which seems to induce
vivid dreaming and greater dream recall) and is then interrogated about
his dreams the next day.

The film is super-stylized, using
nearly every trick in the book to attempt a dreamlike feel on a low
budget. Solarization, rotoscoping, and CGI are all employed, both in
dreams and the real world. Unfortunately, they’re often not employed
successfully. For example, the CGI is purposefully cheap-looking (to
give it an unreal look) but cheap CGI is so familiar to my eyes that it
can immediately take me out of a movie. If you’re using special effects
unrealistically to create a dreamlike feel, the goal should be to make
something where the viewer doesn’t know what they’re looking at, and
low-grade CGI doesn’t really do that. (There are a couple of shots that
achieve an interesting effect by having the camera track through a CGI
hallway and casually pass a live-action person who’s been composited
in.)


“Here’s how we’re going to play it: First, you’re going to give my boy here back his face. Second, you’re going to apologize to him, fancy-like, using as many high-syllable words as you can think of. Third, well I try not to plan too far ahead. We’ll see if my boy’s gun’s still loaded by the time we get that far, and improvise from there.”

The story is driven by The Doctor’s interrogations, which
provide commentary for what we’re seeing (And also provide the
occasional ironic “audience surrogate” aside, asking The Patient for
more tales of sex and murder.) The Patient is trying to piece together
the cryptic elements of the dreams in an effort to remember what
happened to him prior to his forced residency at this facility. The
dreams themselves feature memories, crossed identities, murder, and sex.
The crossed identities is the most interesting aspect of the dreams. I
have myself had dreams where a person looked exactly like real-life
acquaintance A but in the dream I knew was definitely real-life
acquaintance B. That’s something I hadn’t seen done before in cinematic
dream sequences (Though I suspect the shifting identities in certain
David Lynch films are an allusion to this element of dreaming.)

Aside
from the crossed identities, the dream sequences are hit or miss. The
opening couple of dreams before the credits are actually rather
striking. But as for the sequences that follow, occasionally they’ll
achieve an interesting mood, occasionally there’ll be a beautiful image,
but often they just seem obscure, and insufficiently interesting
visually to justify the obscurity. Ultimately, the strange dreams are
revealed to all be pieces in a coherent backstory, but we’re neither
given enough information to start piecing that together ourselves, nor
are the dreams themselves visually intriguing enough to justify not
knowing what’s going on.  The editing of the dream sequences is often
overly reliant on music, which makes it feel like a series of music
videos.

It picks up in the last third, when The Patient finally
puts the pieces together and lets the audience know what’s going on.
Here, the B-movie elements override the experimental film elements. The
Patient flashes back to what happened before he was institutionalized,
and this flashback is good, solid filmmaking.


“What’s Superman going to do with a chainsaw?” is one of those ongoing zen imponderables, like “What is the sound of one hand clapping?” or “Why would God need a starship?”

Psychotropica opens
well and ends well, but the intrigue and beauty found in the beginning
fall by the wayside. If the director had made the bulk of the dream
sequences more visually compelling, I wouldn’t have minded wallowing in
the mystery of it all without a clue. Or the director could have rolled
back the subjective stylization that obscures everything and switched
briefly a more realistic style to highlight key moments in the dreams,
providing clues that might help one unravel the mystery. It’s a simple
B-movie storyline, and the dream sequences might’ve been more
interesting if the viewer was able to develop a partial grasp of what
was going on before the big reveal. All that said, this film was made
for almost no money. Given that, the fact that it has a fairly unique
(and at times compelling) look is an accomplishment. Really, most films
I’ve seen that were made with this amount of money are unwatchable. But
on its own terms, given that parts of the beginning and ending are
actually pretty good, I find myself thinking the section in between
(which is the bulk of the film) could be better.


Would make a
good double feature with: Jean Cocteau’s The Blood of a Poet.

THE
PACKAGE


For a movie with such a weird look, the transfer is
likely as good as can be. It’s 1.78:1, anamorphically enhanced. Extras
include a promotional artwork gallery, FX test footage, some amusing
footage of the director running around his house doing the foley
recordings, and a theatrical trailer.

6.2/10