April 20 is a day when folks across the country and beyond set up camp in basements, fields, or wherever the sun shines to celebrate mother nature’s Ativan. It’s been a minute since my pot-smoking heyday in high school, and back then I was a paranoid-enough smoker that I wouldn’t dream of messing with horror movies while stoned (not by choice at least).
When it comes to bridging weed and horror in the Bushwick-made, stoner-slasher film “Psychotic!,” the two go together like Cheech and Chong. In celebration of last Friday 4/20, Cobra Club hosted a screening of the feature-length film.
“Psychotic!” first debuted back in 2016 at the Brooklyn Horror Film Festival, but it wasn’t officially released until this past January (it’s now available on Amazon, iTunes, and Google Play). Over the last two years, Maxwell Frey and Derek Gibbons — who directed, wrote, and starred in the film — have tweaked “Psychotic!” to its final state of glory. The pair met in university, and it was love at first sight, according to Gibbons.
When I asked how high they were for the inception and making of the film, Gibbons said it was about “60/40 throughout the researching process. Forty being high.” At 7.30 p.m., about 25 people settled into the Cobra Club studio for the screening.
The opening scene is filmed from the vantage point of a knife-wielding Peeping Tom whose timing is so terrible that it’s funny: He breaks into the apartment of a potential victim, seconds before a hoard of guests arrive for a surprise party. He searches frantically for a hiding spot and ultimately finds one under a bed.
Aside from a ruthless homicide involving birthday cake, the highlight of the opening sequence is a one-sided conversation where Jack, the douchy finance bro, tells the killer about his girl problems as they share a joint. It’s one of the best parts of the whole film.
The film follows Stuart and Tim, two estranged roommates with their own personal problems to deal with, as they and their crew of hipsters navigate relationship drama, band drama, and the cost of getting way too high – all while a Party Killer terrorizes their Bushwick neighborhood.
The film apexes in the final scene (filmed at Silent Barn) during the gig of Stuart’s former band. The result is a bloody mess, including death by bong and a butchering that challenges even the most-seasoned eyes. Of course, it wouldn’t be a slasher flick without a twist or two.
Confused? That’s ok. While the actual logistics of the plot don’t align seamlessly, hysterical dialogue and over-the-top characters, most of whom would be classified as psychotic themselves, trumps any holes in the story.
For an amateur film financed by a Crowdfunding campaign and with a cast almost entirely made up of Gibbons and Frey’s friends, “Psychotic!” is a pretty impressive piece of work. Some of the scenes were actually pretty beautiful: A haze of weed smoke can be quite stunning.
The final verdict? If you can get past the cast’s lack of diversity, you definitely don’t have to be high to appreciate “Psychotic!.” That being said, it wouldn’t hurt either.
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Cover image by Drew Taylor