Through his first four films, precocious young filmmaker Mickey Keating has mixed stealing from classic drive-in fare with just enough originality to come across as an auteur, not a hack. But with his fifth film, “Psychopaths,” the writer-director tips the balance too far toward high-minded abstraction, producing something well-intentioned but tedious.
The film opens with B-indie stalwart Larry Fessenden playing prophetic serial killer Henry Earl Starkweather, who in his final pre-execution interview promises that his spirit will survive in his disciples. “Psychopaths” then follows a handful of sadistic killers over the course of one bloody Los Angeles night.
Despite a “Big Lebowski”-esque narrator’s efforts to frame the action, “Psychopaths” is ostensibly plotless until its final 15 minutes or so, when some — but not all — of the characters and concepts intersect. Until then, the movie bounces between colorful, strange scenes of torture and murder.
Some of these vignettes are quite striking — especially the ones involving Ashley Bell (so memorable in Keating’s previous picture “Carnage Park”) as a woman whose homicidal delusions have her pretending to be either a cabaret performer or an elegantly attired socialite.
But at this point in his career, Keating lacks the vision and the discipline of filmmakers like Peter Strickland or the team of Hélène Cattet and Bruno Forzani, who’ve mastered the skill of turning the elements of trash cinema into art. “Psychopaths” is too random, too kitschy — too immature.
Running time: 1 hour, 21 minutes
Playing: Arena Cinelounge Sunset, Hollywood