A Promising Start Squandered By A Ludicrous Change In Tone
For the first 20 minutes or so, Indie flick Alien Psychosis holds a lot of promise. Armed with slowly mounting tension and a core trio of characters to work with, the opening act does a good job setting the scene and introducing the characters in an interesting way. Unfortunately for Alien Psychosis the film slowly unravels during its middle act before hopelessly falling apart for an incredulous, nonsensical finale that destroys the good, early work done in this film.
The opening shots are genuinely unnerving too, featuring a half naked man tied up with a single, flickering lamp for company. Wide eyed and afraid, the door handle opposite him slowly opens to reveal something nasty behind it before cutting abruptly to our main characters. It’s a perfect opening, setting the mood for a tense beginning where war veteran Ryan (Steve Baran) returns home to his pregnant wife Stephanie (Lee Tomaschefski). Their happy reunion is short lived though as Steph’s brother Tony (Jackson Berlin) rekindles the tense feud he has with Ryan and the uneasy tension spreads throughout the film. As the plot progresses Ryan begins seeing and hearing strange phenomena around the house and surrounding area ranging from loud bangs to a mysterious figure scuttling about in the hallway during the night. As the story evolves, so too does the tone of the film, feeling much more closely linked to a slasher/home invasion film than the psychologically driven horror about aliens it presents itself as early on. This change is both jarring and incredibly deceptive too, especially since Alien Psychosis has much less to do with aliens than you’d expect, emanating a feeling of misleading disappointment considering how the film presents itself early on.
When Psychosis isn’t exploring Ryan’s mental state, Steph and Ryan’s relationship takes centre stage. It’s here that the film’s pacing suffers as the weak, contrived feud between Ryan and Tony never feels realistically depicted or fleshed out enough to make us believe their conflict is anything but superficial. The acting itself is relatively hit or miss all round too with some scenes perfectly serviceable and others bordering on terrible making it difficult to get into a steady groove with such a wildly inconsistent vibe.
As expected for an Indie film on a budget, Alien Psychosis has little in the way of visual effects or expensively shot cameras to work with. Instead, the film plays on fear of the unknown and it’s here that the story thrives during the brief moments it builds up a good dose of tension. After the opening act, the cinematography begins to feel a little clumsily put together, saved somewhat by a good use of music and sound to hide some of the inconsistencies.
While Alien Psychosis isn’t the worst film you’re likely to see this year, there’s also far better Indie flicks out there worth checking out. The opening 20 minutes are very well crafted too making this all the more disappointing to review in a negative light. Had Psychosis kept a consistent tone and feel throughout without throwing its plot ideas out the window then perhaps it would be easy to overlook some of the technical limitations that come with a shoestring budget but unfortunately the story is one of the biggest problems with the film, hindered further by some questionable execution. For a film supposedly about seeing aliens, the only thing Psychosis manages to achieve is alienate anyone who makes it to the latter periods of the film with its deceptive switch in tone and mood.