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Mel House
Katie Featherston, Glenn Morshower, Debbie Rochon, Adrienne King, Kathy Lamkin, Reggie Bannister, Brady Hender
Writing Credits:
Mel House

You can't escape your past!

A team of doctors does not have healing on their minds when they take over a small, idyllic community. The corrupt doctors implant a chip in the brain of each their dying patients in order to track the patient's most sinister thoughts and desires. With this knowledge, the team begins terrorizing the town and the residents are left to fend for themselves or die trying. Stars Glenn Morshower, Kathy Lamkin, Katie Featherston.

Rated R

Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
English Dolby Digital 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 93 min.
Price: $26.98
Release Date: 12/6/2011

• Audio Commentary with Writer/Director/Editor Mel House and Actors Melanie Donihoo, Reggie Bannister, Debbie Rochon, Shannon Lark and Denton Blane Everett
• ďBurned Guys and Dolls: Behind the ScenesĒ Featurette
• Seven Deleted/Extended Scenes with Optional Commentary
• Trailer
• Previews


Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


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Psychic Experiment (2010)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (November 23, 2011)

In the two years since Paranormal Activity became a hit, star Katie Featherston has mostly just made sequels to it. 2010ís Psychic Experiment gives her a chance to appear in something other than part of that franchise, though its subject matter means it doesnít act as much of a stretch for her.

A small town experiences a bunch of strange events. A high percentage of inhabitants come down with a cancer-like disease, others simply disappear, and strange sinkholes begin to materialize around the area. Some suspect that these incidents connect to a medical facility in town, and those suspicions turn out to be correct as the residents go through a series of awful, violent experiences.

These turn out to be related to the inhabitantsí mental activities, as the doctors have implanted chips in their brains so they can track thoughts and use the images against the people. This means that what happens in someoneís brain then manifests in the real world and affects others as well. Eventually some of the residents figure out that somethingís afoot and work to fight back against this cruel experiment.

At least thatís what I think the movie attempts to tell. In truth, Iím not totally sure, as the story comes out in such a loose, incoherent manner that it becomes difficult to comprehend the nature of the action. It does start to make more sense toward the end, but by then, it seems likely that the viewer has abandoned the perplexing tale.

The perplexing and amateurish tale, that is. On a movie-related website, I recently engaged in a discussion of how budgets affect quality. Some people think that little money almost automatically equals problematic film, but I donít agree; just because you lack serious funds doesnít mean you canít create a good flick.

Because of that belief, I canít defend Experiment based on its modest budgetary origins. Actually, I can make some excuses for its production values due to the lack of money. An ambitious story like this depends heavily on visual effects, so the low budget hurt Experiment in that regard; these elements consistently look pretty awful, and additional funds wouldíve helped attain superior CG.

Otherwise, however, I donít think more money wouldíve saved Experiment. The main problem remains the script, which is simply a mess. The movie often feels like little more than a conglomeration of scenes from other flicks. We get obvious references to Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Childís Play, the various Nightmare on Elm Street efforts and others. These come across more as rip-offs than homages, and they distract us from any potential horror.

Actually, Experiment does manage the occasional creepy image, but the storyís such a mess that those lose impact. Add the aforementioned weak visual effects and it becomes tough to invest in the tale.

None of the actors manage to elevate their roles. In the film budget discussion I had, some felt that more money equals better actors. Again, I donít agree; I think you can find good talent on the cheap.

I wonít use Experiment to defend my argument, however, as it suffers from a consistently low quality of acting. If thereís a good performance to be found here, I canít locate it. Oh, and the prominent presence of Featherston in the DVDís advertising is a tease; Katieís barely part of the movie.

A more skilled filmmaker like David Cronenberg could probably make something good out of Psychic Experiment, but as filmed, this is a pretty poor movie. The combination of cheap production values, a clunky, confusing story and weak acting undermines any of the flickís potential strengths and turns it into a barely watchable mess.

The DVD Grades: Picture C/ Audio B/ Bonus B-

Psychic Experiment appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.78:1; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Though not unwatchable, the transfer tended to be mediocre.

Sharpness was a concern. Close-ups and two-shots demonstrated fairly good delineation, but anything wider turned somewhat fuzzy and indistinct. Overall definition remained acceptable but not better than that. No real issues with jaggies or moirť effects occurred, but I saw some edge haloes, and the movie tended to be rather noisy. At least it lacked noticeable source flaws.

Colors were bland. Much of this seemed to stem from visual design, but even so, the hues remained awfully flat, as they lacked much clarity and tended to be mushy and runny. Blacks were drab and somewhat gray, while shadows looked rather dense and opaque. At no point did the image seem better than average for SD-DVD.

At least the filmís Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack proved to be more successful. The soundfield emphasized the forward channels and worked quite well within that realm. The front spectrum was nicely broad and blended together cleanly. The elements remained in the appropriate locations and panned smoothly across the channels

Surround usage tended toward general reinforcement and atmospherics, though the rear speakers came to life pretty well during action or surreal sequences. These channels didnít dazzle, but they brought some life to the mix.

Audio quality always seemed good. Speech was consistently natural and crisp, with no signs of edginess. Music was clean and concise. The score appeared well-recorded and dynamic. Effects also came across as lively and distinctive, and they lacked distortion. Bass response was deep and firm. Overall, the audio was more than fine for the story.

We get a decent set of extras here. These begin with an audio commentary from writer/director/editor Mel House and actors Melanie Donihoo, Reggie Bannister, Debbie Rochon, Shannon Lark and Denton Blane Everett. All sit together for this running, screen-specific chat about cast reactions to the script, characters, story and performances, locations and music, effects, influences and reflections of real life experiences.

The last element proves to be the most informative, as House tells us about how his life impacted aspects of the story. He gets into some brutal experiences and these give us good insight.

Otherwise, this tends to be a spotty track. On the positive side, itís not nearly as messy as expected. At the start, House offers a disclaimer that leads one to believe the commentary will be a crudely-recorded mess, but thatís not the case; itís perfectly clear and not as chaotic as he implies.

But that doesnít make it especially informative, unfortunately. While we do find some nice details Ė like those influences I mentioned Ė far too much of the track simply involves praise from the participants. We hear about everything they like Ė and they like everything. Thereís still enough good material to make the commentary worthwhile, but it can become tedious due to all the happy talk.

A featurette called Burned Guys and Dolls: Behind the Scenes goes for 16 minutes, 49 seconds and includes notes from House, Donihoo, Everett, Rochon, Bannister, Lark, producer/actor James LaMarr, special effects artist Marcus Koch, cinematographer Philip Roy, and actors Natali Jones and Adrienne King. We learn a lit about the filmís development and story, Houseís work on the set, cast, characters and performances, photography and various effects. A few decent notes emerge here, but this is mostly a general promotional piece.

Seven Deleted/Extended Scenes last a total of 17 minutes, seven seconds. A few offer additional gore, but most add some character expansion. None of these do anything to really further story or character issues, so donít expect much from them, though the first throws out some enjoyable gratuitous nudity.

We can view these with or without commentary from House and Donihoo. They tell us a lot about the scene specifics as well as why the sequences got the boot. They offer a chatty take on the material.

The disc opens with ads for Camp Hell, The Hunters, Needle and ďFear.net OriginalsĒ. Also from Lionsgate provides the same promos, and we get the trailer for Experiment as well.

At its heart, Psychic Experiment boasts the potential to become a decent supernatural thriller. Unfortunately, it comes with a mix of flaws that rob it of nearly any effectiveness; itís too erratic and amateurish to succeed. The DVD provides mediocre picture, good audio and a decent set of supplements. Nothing here stands out to make Experiment worth my recommendation.

Viewer Film Ratings: 1 Stars Number of Votes: 1
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