This entertaining little shocker from '75 has an IMDB score which seems to be far too low. Yeah. It's cheap, hokey and looks like an episode of a cop show, but Psychic Killer has a lot of charm. The basic premise surrounds a man who is able to kill people via sending his spirit out by astral projection and using his psychic abilities to telekinetically influence the world around his victims.
It's a film that has been on my radar for a while as the rather brilliant trailer is attached to a bunch of low budget horror DVDs I've been gathering lately. Pretty much every Vipco title I've found of late has the trailer for Psychic Killer on it, so the power of advertising finally pushed me into checking out what I see as an under-appreciated gem.
Quiet guy Arnold Masters is in a jail's mental ward for a murder he didn't commit. While in jail he meets a man who introduces him to the concept of psychic powers, who then promptly dies in a scene which is both chilling and hilarious. When his innocence is revealed, he is set free and sinks deeper into his own world of strange and dark thoughts. With an amulet the guy leaves behind, Arnold is able to set about tracking down and offing all of the people that screwed his life up with the murder case.
Of course, there's a sexy doctor and a grizzled cop on his trail as Arnold goes about murdering people in very inventive ways. I think my favourite has to be the scene in which a butcher is killed in a rather grisly fashion. The scene really kicks in when a load of raw meat chases him towards a meat grinder, which then spews chunks of meat as we watch his hand minced into a bloody mess (you may well recognize the butcher from Tobe Hooper's Eaten Alive/Death Trap flick).
Arnold, played by the deliciously creepy Jim Hutton, is actually quite likeable in an odd way. It's everyone else that's kinda irritating in the film, which makes it oddly satisfying when they are minced, flung off cliffs, burned to death in the shower or whatever fate Arnold sees fit for them. The film mixes thriller, horror and science fiction together, and while it doesn't always work, for me me it hits the mark more often than not.
I just wish the ending had been longer, a bit more fleshed out, and that there had been an epilogue. Psychic Killer is one of those film that literally stops as the climactic moment ends, which is rather annoying after such a build-up to what is effectively a very short finale. There are moments throughout the film that show great promise, with some very creepy moments where the atmosphere is pitch perfect.
The character of Arnold is classic lunatic, quiet and gentle but always slightly off-kilter. The answer to beating him is a bit of a cop-out and there are loose plot threads dangling here and there, but those final moments, however short they are, are worth waiting for. Psychic Killer does live up to the hype I had built up around it after seeing the trailer so many times, but only just.