Psych:9 is part of Lionsgate’s master plan to release a string of low-budget horror features helmed by inexperienced filmmakers produced under the “Ghost House Underground” banner. I sure as hell hope that the other movies are better than this. There are some redeeming features to Psych:9 if one takes into account that it was the first feature film for both its writer and director, but it’s simply flat on the whole. Plus, it would seem that screenwriter Lawrence Robinson and director Andrew Shortell have encyclopaedic knowledge of every horror movie and slasher of the last three decades – there is not a single original bone in Psych:9‘s cinematic body, and the treatment of the hackneyed material is not engaging or stylistically inventive enough to overcome the “been there, done that” feeling which plagues every frame of the enterprise.
In desperate need of a job, Roslyn (Foster) takes a position working the night shift inside a hospital that recently closed its doors. Working alone as she collates medical records and organises files, it isn’t long before Roslyn begins hearing strange noises and seeing peculiar things. On edge due to a series of killings in the local area attributed to a serial killer known as the Nighthawk, Roslyn finds friendship in amiable psychiatrist Dr. Clement (Elwes), who is taking care of the files in the psych ward. Roslyn begins growing suspicious that her husband Cole (Mann) could be the Nighthawk, and her work leads her to suspect that the murders are linked to the hospital. Amid this, Detective Marling (Biehn) is investigating the Nighthawk killings, and he’s not ready to rule Roslyn or her husband out as potential suspects.
At face value, Psych:9 is an interesting proposition. It’s set in an abandoned hospital, a serial killer is on the loose, there are paranormal undertones, and Michael Fucking Biehn is in the cast. In deft hands, it could’ve been an intriguing horror outing, but this potential ultimately leads nowhere. It’s ostensibly a supernatural chiller, but Psych:9 is a straight-up whodunit slasher with splashes of Shutter Island. While there’s nothing inherently wrong with this from a conceptual standpoint, the film seems deliberately ambivalent as to what exactly is going on. A deep, dark and decisive finale could’ve been extremely effective, but the filmmakers went another route, as if Robinson himself was unsure about how to properly end it. More than likely, most viewers will be left confused about what just happened, and what the final twist actually means. And the “pay more attention” argument is null; the storytelling is just too jarring and editing too off-tempo.
At the very least, the production is not a total bust from a technical perspective. In terms of direction and photography, Psych:9 is okay; not terrible or overly cheap, but not enthralling or polished enough either. It’s the very definition of mediocre. The hospital is the most effective thing in the film; it’s a suitably creepy, unnerving location, with rotting medical equipment and plenty of dark shadows and dank hallways. The film is bathed in a fluorescent lighting scheme of greens and yellows in an attempt to hide the low budget, giving it an ugly but somewhat atmospheric look.
Similarly, the acting is mediocre-to-good. In the lead role, Sara Foster does a decent enough job, conveying fear and vulnerability well enough. She’s an attractive and endearing screen presence, as well, which makes her a suitable horror lead, though unremarkable. The biggest names here are Cary Elwes and Michael Biehn playing Dr. Clement and Detective Marling, respectively. Elwes is watchable in anything he’s in, and he’s especially amiable here. Biehn, meanwhile, is the best actor here. He wasn’t given much to work with, but Biehn makes the most of his role and he seems to be the most committed member of the cast.
In the end, Psych:9 wants to do something more than your standard ghost story, but it’s ultimately more trite and less interesting than a straight haunting feature. There’s nothing original here, and it doesn’t serve up enough effectively spooky moments. It’s not exactly horrible, but it is formulaic and hopelessly forgettable. If you’re an unfussy horror/thriller fan looking for a simple evening rental on a dark, stormy night, you might extract some enjoyment from Psych:9. Otherwise, there are many other, more skilful horror offerings available.