I hate to say it, but I don’t think Hysterical Psycho was released to the public as first time director Dan Fogler intended. When the film first starts up, there’s an anecdotal voice-over that informs us the final product was supposed to be mostly black and white, but “since the post production house screwed it up, it shall forever be known as the red-headed stepchild version.” It’s a disappointing shame, too, because the black and white filter would have absolutely fit Fogler’s intended atmosphere, blending off-broadway overproduction with bloody, vile brutality. Incomparably independent in every sense of the word (estimated budget of $150,000), this bizarre horror comedy has been sitting around since 2009, but thanks to the emerging Video On Demand marketplace, Fogler’s passion project is finally reaching nationwide audiences – but is it truly ready?
Playing as a Hitchcockian mystery and horror homage all wrapped in one, Hysterical Psycho tells the story of a doomed theater troupe heading to Moon Lake for some solid bonding time. What these clueless party animals don’t know is that Moon Lake emits dangerous levels of lunar radiation, known to drive some people completely insane. As our characters start dying one by one, it becomes obvious that someone may have succumbed to the hypnotic radiation, and that a killer lurks among the group. Is it the nerd? The vixen? Maybe the playboy? As the numbers dwindle, our choices begin to narrow, but will the thrilling crime-spree be stopped before there’s no one left to finger the culprit?
Fogler concocted his meta-spoof horror story while participating in an off-Broadway production, which explains so, so much about a script one song away from a horror musical, and also the participation of numerous friends and stage co-stars. Hysterical Psycho feels like a bit of dinner theater fare, hammed up and goofy enough to avoid any real horror, except you might have a little trouble keeping your food down as red liquids gush like spurting faucets.
There’s definite style to Fogler’s madness though, as a cartoon narrator guides us throughout that fateful night at Moon Lake (voiced by a raspy Fogler), while random interjections and story breaks act as intermissions and such – again, much like a play would. This is both a positive and negative selling point, because while originality comes in the form of a psychotic killer who possesses an obvious character, some of the material is so schticky that certain horror sects will immediately be turned off. Fogler aims for laughs while tipping his hat to a whole slew of classic horror films (Evil Dead), but in doing so, severs ties with so many of the audiences our auteur is searching for. Being too audacious for mainstream viewers, not scary enough for straight-laced horror fans, overly-comedic for witty fans, and too tongue-in-cheek for the rest, I’m honestly left scratching my head over what audience Hysterical Psycho might actually play positively to?
Obvious – that’s the other key word here. Sadly, the satirical nature of Fogler’s screenplay doesn’t create any twists or surprises, and presents characters who are wholly predictable – on purpose. The killer isn’t hidden, he high-steps about with a cartoonishly exaggerated dementia, and each other character is more stereotypical than the next, but it’s all intentional. These exploited horror tropes are all part of Fogler’s blueprints, but outside of more hardcore fan bases, these deliberate attempts at mockery may seem like poor character creation and carbon-copy filmmaking, adding a confusing aspect to Hysterical Psycho.
Addressing the horror side of Fogler’s massacre, his low-budget mentality makes for some undeniably fun kills, but again, black and white would have done wonders visually. The fake blood sprayed about actually looks more vibrant in the B&W picture above, as it appears watery and fabricated in full color. Likewise, moments of close-up lighting and creature reveals don’t exactly impress when viewed in full color detail, but in black and white, Fogler’s grindhouse-inspired feel would have greatly benefited from becoming even more over-the-top – driving home an eerie aura of abnormality.
Hysterical Psycho ends up being a B-Movie gone awry, which is a genuine let-down because Dan Fogler is a funny man who shows a lot of horror love in his first feature creation. Hindered by a small budget and (presumably) plagued by post-production problems, our final project suffers a scare-free identity crisis that doesn’t promote gleeful fun or terrifying tortures – just some actors and actresses being killed by a laughing man. Maybe if I were influenced by the lunar radiation of Moon Lake, then maybe Fogler’s Frankensteined script might come together as this hilarious horror spoof mocking everything from slashers to paranormal horror, but unfortunately I don’t react to the moon that way – just full moons when I turn into a WereNato!
It's a shame that Hysterical Psycho never really comes together, because there are some hilariously horrifying moments of spoofy slasher goodness to be found here.