Sunday, January 17, 2010

Movie Outlaw: PSYCHOS IN LOVE (1987)

[Reprinted from Hey, Did You Ever See the Movie...?]

Joe owns a bar; Kate is a lonely manicurist. Both long for love, for understanding, but find both difficult to achieve. It makes them angry, frustrated, forlorn. Eventually, their paths cross and it’s love at first sight, particularly because they share one crucial personality trait: they’re both psychopathic murderers. Love, happiness, hilarity and gore ensues.

Over the last twenty-some years, Gorman Bechard’s Psychos in Love has developed a devoted and deserved cult following. It’s a movie that’s incredibly easy to like, despite the outwardly-lurid subject matter. It’s a black comedy, obviously, that owes more than a little debt to Paul Bartel’s Eating Raoul, minus that film’s smugness. But hands down the reason it works is due to the natural chemistry of stars Carmine Capobianco (Land of College Prophets, Everything Moves Alone) and Debi Thibeault. It’s easy to believe that these two star-crossed crazies would fall for each other because, first and foremost, they like each other. Homicidal tendencies aside, they enjoy just hanging out and being silly together, and the non-cynical viewer will enjoy hanging out with them as well. The pair reteamed with Bechard for the additional outings Galactic Gigolo and Cemetery High, but neither of the latter work quite as well or possess the goofy charm of Psychos in Love.  

There’s not a lot of plot to Psychos in Love, and everyone involved has admitted at one point or another that a good deal of the scenes were improvised. Their shared rant “I hate grapes. I hate green grapes. I hate purple grapes. I hate them separately. In bunches and in little groups of twos and threes. I fucking hate grapes,” is often heard chanted by those “in the know” at horror conventions and has almost become the equivalent of the horror fan’s secret handshake (in much the same way as “42” is to science fiction fans). Though the rant itself—one of the pair’s given reasons for their murderous impulses—was a throwaway gag Capobianco and Bechard came up with during the first draft of the script. It’s a meaningless MacGuffin, but it’s still very funny. Joe addresses the audience throughout the film, like a bearded Alvy Singer, and rather than the device feeling forced, Capobianco makes us feel right at home. Like we just dropped in on Joe and Kate for an evening of TV and carnage.

For the longest time, Psychos in Love was such an obscure, underground film, available in only the most out-of-the-way mom-and-pop video stores, that the horror community was literally polarized over the movie’s very existence. It gained a little more credibility in the ‘90s when Caroline in the City’s co-star, Eric Lutes, was outted as the movie’s cannibal plumber that throws a monkey wrench (sorry) into the pair’s murder games. But it took years for it to find its way onto “legitimate” DVD. And for a while there, it was only available as an overseas import. But now it’s officially available and ready for your viewing pleasure.

Now, make no mistake, Psychos in Love was shot on a half-shoestring budget and it shows. The camerawork is rough as is the sound, Capobianco performs the score on a Casio keyboard, and most of the other performers are, well, less than stellar. The gore is fun and the story never gets boring, but if you grew up raised on the flawless offerings of Hollywood, you might not “get” Psychos in Love. And if you’re one of the humorless slugs that slimes the internet message boards, you’ll undoubtedly brand this as “worst movie ever” just moments before declaring something else to be “worst movie ever”. And while it’s said that there’s no such thing as a wrong opinion, it isn’t the case here. If you don’t enjoy Capobianco and Thibeault’s characters in this film, you’re wrong. Plain and simple. Your heart is full of unwashed socks and you have no business calling yourself a movie fan. The slimmest of dimes spent is visible on the screen, but so is every bit of love put in.

[Now, for personal disclosure, I was first exposed to Psychos in Love by my best friend and business partner Bill Homan, who had a third-generation VHS copy that had a unique jump in the middle—one of his roommates had accidentally hit “record” on the remote while watching, thus inserting an animated Sesame Street spider into the midst of the movie. For years, this was the version we watched. Now that it’s available on pristine DVD, I have to admit, I miss the spider just a little.]

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