Psych: 9 – (Screamfest) Review
Years ago I watched a film called Session 9 that dealt with a crew being sent in to clean up an abandoned mental institution. The film was a creepy supernatural thriller for the most part, only to reveal the very non paranormal cause of the mayhem in the final moments. When I saw the trailer for Psych: 9 I couldn’t help but think of that older film. Both take place in abandoned (well in Psych: 9’s case, soon to be abandoned) hospitals and both have that number 9 in the title that becomes a major plot point. Upon watching the film I was even more surprised how right I was as Psych follows the same formula as Session with much of the film being a supernatural thriller until the end.
Roslyn (Sara Foster) is a sad woman who takes a job collating files for a soon to be demolished hospital. During her shifts she notices some strange occurrences such as ghostly figures and some mysterious singing. Roslyn is also grappling with the fact that she apparently can’t bear children, making her more on edge and putting her at odds with her husband Cole (Gabriel Mann). She eventually befriends the only other person working in the building, Dr. Clement (Cary Elwes), who works up on the fifth floor in the psychology ward. This particular ward is filled with many archaic, cruel looking devices, especially room 9. There is also a mysterious killer known as the Night Hawk that is terrorizing young women around the town. The building is occasionally visited by Detective Marling (Michael Biehn) who believes that the Night Hawk may have some connection to the hospital.
When Psych: 9 works it’s really good. Director Andrew Shortell does a great job of making the environment compellingly creepy, which adds some weight to the scares. The creepiness is furthered by the fact that we never really get an answer for what’s going on. There’s no back story of a psych patient that died or anything like that so we never really know what the glimpses of ghostly figures will lead to. They seem to appear and disappear at random, creating a disorienting atmosphere that leaves one to wonder exactly what will happen next. The pervading sense of dread that the Night Hawk could appear at any moment adds to this, as we spend much of the film waiting to see what his connection to the hospital will be.
The acting is mostly good. Foster is great as the troubled lead, maintaining an angry calm throughout most of the film but also venturing into hysterics when the plot calls for it. Elwes is Elwes. Sometimes that can be a problem but his style works here. The real standout is Michael Biehn. I loved his character and his morbidly comedic attitude. The parts where he laments over his troubles quitting smoking killed me every time.
The only real problem I had with the film is the ending. I felt it wrapped up a bit too cleanly and it didn’t seem to answer some of the lingering questions in the plot. Despite this however, Psych: 9 is a solid chiller and will hopefully get picked up soon so that more people can see it. It’s not going to become a modern classic by any means but its creepiness will leave many viewers wonderfully unsettled.