As I file my final review after 2 years at Rogue Cinema, it’s not surprising that the filmmaker most commonly referenced has been David Lynch. So many films (mostly the more experimental shorts) aim for the darkly comic and effortlessly cool tone he’s famous for. Written & directed by Brandon Block (and adapted from the short story “Ghost” by Maxwell Gontarek), “Psychic Murder” at first appears to be another attempt at a Lynchian tale.
We encounter comedian Billy (Will Beamish) in the middle of his failing set. He decides to abandon his act midstream and address what the audience is really focused on. He was apparently born with large 3 fingered cartoon hands. As soon as he begins joking about his hands, the crowd warms to him. He is approached by aggressive agent Mickey Goldsmith (Timothy J. Cox) who promises to make him a star. As they dine together, Goldsmith tells him the cautionary tale of a previous client who broke his one rule. Stay away from his voluptuous partner Puma (Tatiana Ford). Of course the comedian is immediately confronted by Puma in the bathroom and has to decide whether or not to risk his possible success.
The sinister stranger is a hallmark of Lynch’s films (perhaps the most famous being Robert Blake’s eyebrowless specter in “Lost Highway”) and “Psychic Murder” has its own in Cox’s Goldsmith. Cox manages to fill the screen with menace. But where Psychic Murder falls well short of Lynch’s bizarre work is how it chooses to handle Billy’s birth defect. The hands are cartoonish and cheap, which adds to the surreal nature of the short, but if this was a Lynch film, there would be no acknowledgement of the hands; they would just sit there unexplained like in a dream. In Block’s film, the hands are central. “Psychic Murder” has the stylized deco locations and deep red curtains of a Lynch film, but not the strange heart.
Technically, “Psychic Murder” suffers from the flat, washed out look of many recent digital efforts. However, Block uses the 10 minute runtime to display his strength for setting, mood, and suspense.