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Psycho Sisters

Review by: 
Blackgloves
Release Date: 
1998
Studio: 
Screen Entertainment
Genre: 
Horror
Format: 
DVD
Region: 
0 PAL
Aspect Ratio: 
1.33:1
Directed by: 
Pete Jacelone
Cast: 
Theresa Lynn
J.J. North
Anthony Wald
Movie: 
2
Extras: 
2
Bottom Line: 
2

 An apparently standard piece of b-movie trash cinema, "Psycho Sisters" is, in fact, a remake -- or a remake of a remake, to be even more exact. The first "demo" version was an appropriately scuzzy-looking shot-on-video atrocity, in-which the titular anti-heroines capture unwary 'jock' lunkheads and torture them while clad only in their ill-fitting, baggy underwear! Poorly-made, poorly acted and poorly-written (it only takes a few minutes of the footage, included in the bizarre "director profile" featurette which is included as an extra on the disc, to determine this), its vain attempts at providing titillation result in some of the most excruciatingly embarrassing images ever captured on cheap camcorder.
 
Despite this appalling misconfiguration, the first attempt at a full-length feature, still shot on video (albeit, a slightly better quality video), eventually came to pass under the direction of a curious amateur filmmaker by the name of Pete Jacelone. A chiropractor by profession, mild-mannered Jacelone (a prim-looking man with a peculiarly 'stiff', though enthusiastic demeanour which reminds one of a young David Lynch) makes his own horror-movies at the weekends and plays in a part-time band consisting of he and his mullet-haired brother -- whose acoustic country-rock noodlings he embellishes with flowery electric bass frills.
 
Not much is shown of Jacelone's first version of "Psycho Sisters" in the featurette that accompanies this film, but it evidently dissatisfied even the DIY aesthetics that mark the short example of his past work that actually is featured here in its entirety. It's worth taking a look at this early amateur effort before we concentrate on the dubious merits of the main feature. Shot by Jacelone on what appears to be a standard camcorder, "The Lost Child" is hardly a cinematic masterpiece; but this odd adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft's "The Outsider" does, probably out of sheer luck rather than grand design, capture a strange, morose atmosphere of morbid alienation and sickening dread. Grainy washed-out footage of dank, semi abandoned graveyards and surrounding rambling foliage shakily pictures the point-of-view of a lost and lonely child looking for its mother; an eccentric, psychedelic-style folk-rock track accompanies all these images throughout -- with lyrics dramatising the loneliness of the protagonist. Eventually, the "boy" enters a house which is hosting a curious Tupperware party whose female participants flee in terror when they catch sight of the sad child. Of course, as we discover when he notices himself in a mirror, the child is a long way from anything that could be described as being human!
 
This little tale is a low-fi, rather shoddy affair -- but its unique, experimental tone captures an uneasy mood, and if Jacelone had the kind of resources at his disposal that he eventually had when he came to shoot this third version of "Psycho Sisters", then he might have produced something well worthwhile. Instead, though the main feature is a comparatively professional-looking affair in these days of quickie, video-shot indie horrors (it is shot on 16mm film and has a cast of relatively able b-movie actors), the brash, Troma-style, tongue-in-cheek bad-taste humour of it mostly fails to engage; while the cheap, sensationalist gore and tame nudity will hardly satisfy the cravings of immature gorehounds.
 
The film starts with a husband and wife having a heart-to-heart in their kitchen. The husband is a war veteran and admits to his wife that, while serving in Vietnam, he took part in war crimes against Vietnamese citizens and actually raped a woman! Though hoping that this confession will put a full-stop on their marital problems and lead to forgiveness and understanding, the husband has evidently misjudged the situation: this domestic row takes a rather drastic turn for the worse when his wife produces a gun and shoots him to death; she then cuts off his penis before putting the weapon (the gun, I mean!) to her mouth and blowing her own head off!
 
We cut to the offices of Dr. Samuel Lawrence (John Knox) of the Lawrence Psychiatric Hospital, who is interviewing one of the surviving daughters of this unfortunate, suicidal couple. Young Jane (Theresa Lynn) grew up with her two sisters, Janice & Jackie (J.J. North) after the death of their parents; but bad luck at the hands of a gang of scummy, fresh-faced young rapists result in all three being sexually assaulted (in this version, a slightly better quality of underwear is then displayed) and in Janice being murdered! Understandably traumatised, the two surviving girls have spent the rest of their time in the care of Dr. Lawrence who has now just decided that they have both fully-recovered from their dreadful experiences.
 
Wrong! The two girls go back to their childhood home which now becomes a base of operations for their campaign of vengeance against all men! Led by the embittered and controlling Jackie, the two use their busty charms to kidnap, torture and murder young men. They are aided by the very sexism that has created their madness, since the girls manage to conduct their gory, ferocious slayings without suspicion because everyone assumes that the crimes must have been perpetrated by a man -- who is dubbed "The College Boy Slasher" by the local National Enquirer-style rag which usually runs headlines such as "Gary Coleman Abducted by UFO"!
 
The bodies pile up, and Lieutenant Anderson's investigations seem to be going nowhere; all the detectives he assigns to the case are rather hopeless ... or, even worse, they end-up becoming victims themselves! But all is not well between the sisters -- while Jackie despises all men and wants nothing to do with them other than collecting their private parts in jam jars, Jane is becoming increasingly attracted to Todd (Anthony Wald): a man who works in the Sperm Bank where she donates the sperm samples the girls collect from their victims, prior to dispatching them, and then use as a means of financially supporting themselves! The situation is beginning to cause a rift between the two -- especially since Jane keeps having visions of her mouldering, deceased sister, Janice, who advises her to date Todd and continues to appear, offering encouraging "thumbs up" signs while the two share wholesome rounds of crazy golf followed by milkshakes! Meanwhile the husband & wife team who run the local paper, which is running its own investigation into the crimes, just happen to live next-door to the killer sisters and also enjoy the occasional sadomasochistic sex game! When the husband sees Jackie torturing a young boy while he's trying to spy on her undressing through binoculars, the scene is set for the ultimate bloodbath which will see almost the entire cast decimated!
 
The entire cast make a decent enough go of the material. It's all done in that deliberate histrionic style that denotes irony on the part of performers who have earned their crust appearing in this sort of cheesy, low budget trash for most of their careers. Jacelone does a good job as far as the budget stretches (although one can hear camera noise throughout most of the film, so there obviously wasn't too much attention paid to the audio track!) and "Psycho Sisters" at least looks like a proper film rather than something some Skate Metal fan concocted on his camcorder after school. The film's sensibility isn't much different from that though, and the script and its humour remain quite cynical -- resulting in an unexpectedly original dénouement that leaves all of the male characters dead apart from the genuinely unlikable one! The tone of the film seems a million miles away from the gentle, oddball persona of its director though who appears to have made a standard indie b-movie to order for producers, El Independent Cinema, when one of his own, eccentric personal creations would have been far more interesting.
 
This film comes with a fair complement of extra features which include a trailer, some deleted scenes and some behind-the-scenes footage. The Director's Profile featurette is a twelve minute piece in which Pete Jacelone talks about his life as a chiropractor and part-time musician and filmmaker; it also includes the entire short film "The Lost Child". There is also a ten minute featurette in which the director narrates the history of the various different version of "Psycho Sisters".

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