Category Archives: Psychotronic

Series 7: The Contenders (2001) is an Underseen Gem — Psychotronic Cinema

This is installment six in our “Psychotronic Cinema” series. (What is psychotronic cinema?).

There exists a veritable subgenre of horror-thrillers (truly, there are dozens and dozens of these things) where the premise involves some form of gamified scenario centering around torturous or otherwise deadly scenarios. The trend blew up following the massive success of the Saw franchise (a franchise also responsible for popularizing the torture porn film), but it did not begin here. It also saw a recent unlikely revival with the surprise success of Squid Game in 2021.

Series 7: The Contenders is something like a working class, non-science fiction Running Man. Or a non-science fiction The Hunger Games, years before those books were published. It is murder codified into Continue reading Series 7: The Contenders (2001) is an Underseen Gem — Psychotronic Cinema

Act of Violence upon a Young Journalist (1988) is a Cult Film You’ve Never Heard Of

This is installment five in our “Psychotronic Cinema” series. (What is psychotronic cinema?)

Act of Violence upon a Young Journalist is a cult film object from Uruguay, but it is relatively unknown in the U.S. It circulated in some film circles in South America, seemingly years after its original direct-to-video release in 1988. A documentary was made a couple years ago, called Straight to VHS (directed by Emilio Silva Torres), that documented the strange absence of the film’s director, Manuel Lamas, from public life, which has rendered details on the film’s production and its release scant.

The doc is good, although I don’t think it answers as many questions as it asks. What makes the doc and its distribution important is that Continue reading Act of Violence upon a Young Journalist (1988) is a Cult Film You’ve Never Heard Of

Koyaanisqatsi (1982) is a Psychotronic Film — Review

This is the fourth installment in our “Psychotronic Cinema” series. (What is psychotronic cinema?)

More than anything else, I am reviewing Koyaanisqatsi because it delights me that it (and the second in the trilogy, Powaqqatsi) are in The Psychotronic Video Guide. It is such an odd addition, and it makes me wonder what about it is, in fact, “psychotronic.” The film is not generically of a piece with other psychotronic film (although, as I’ve mentioned before this term encompasses quite a breadth of genres), and its non-narrative documentary style hews it closer to the arthouse than to the late-night cable time slot.

Perhaps its music and rhythmic sense of movement lends itself to a certain, let’s say, chilled out demographic.

Michael Weldon (originator of the term “psychotronic”) writes that the style and score of Koyaanisqatsi was influential culturally, especially in television commercials. This could point us to a tension that presents as psychotronic. If psychotronia’s guiding principle is Continue reading Koyaanisqatsi (1982) is a Psychotronic Film — Review

After Last Season (2009) Is (Maybe) the Most Ambitious Bad Movie Ever Made

This is the third installment of the “Psychotronic Cinema” series. (What is psychotronic cinema?)

After Last Season is both notorious in certain online circles and a relatively unknown entity. Certain YouTubers have amplified its visibility over the last few years (and last few weeks, incidentally), but it still certainly hasn’t risen to the badfilm echelons occupied by the likes of Tommy Wiseau and Neil Breen.

But it deserves to be in that lowly pantheon.

The film opens in a “hospital” where a man is getting an MRI. The “MRI scanner” appears to be constructed of paper (sheets of paper also line the walls). The actor playing the technician stumbles over her line and has to Continue reading After Last Season (2009) Is (Maybe) the Most Ambitious Bad Movie Ever Made

The Collingswood Story (2002) is the First Screenlife Movie

This is the second installment in our “Psychotronic Cinema” series. (What is psychotronic cinema?)

The Collingswood Story has received something of a new lease on life with the continuing trend of “Screenlife” movies. Films which take place entirely on digital screen spaces find their origin point in 2002 with Collingswood. Though not Screenlife in the “pure” sense of taking place entirely on a screen (it’s maybe at 95%), Collingswood makes use of emergent technology in a relatively novel way – blocky early-2000s desktop aesthetic and all. A pandemic-era film like Host owes a great deal to this film, whose video chat technology amplifies a mood of isolation and loneliness.

Separate the film from its novelty, though, and Collingswood does not Continue reading The Collingswood Story (2002) is the First Screenlife Movie

Greaser’s Palace (1972) is an (Unfulfilling) Weirdo’s Paradise

This is installment one in our “Psychotronic Cinema series.

The films in this series are “psychotronic,” a term borrowed from Michael J. Weldon’s magazine and encyclopedia. Psychotronic covers the wide swath of cinema that is either slightly out there or entirely bonkers – horror, science fiction, fantasy, exploitation, blockbusters, flops, low budgets, no budgets, thought-provoking, brain dead, beautiful, grotesque, bloody, breezy, sleazy, and so on. At the end of the day, what is considered “psychotronic” might come down to the eye test – you know one when it crosses your path.

After watching last year’s Sr., a Robert Downey Jr.-led documentary about his father, filmmaker Robert Downey (Sr.), I was enticed into catching up on some of the director’s offbeat filmography. It wasn’t the documentary itself that invited me to see Greaser’s Palace — neither the clips from the film nor the doc’s father-son bonding moments did it for me. Frankly, the doc felt a few ticks overdone, with its black and white cinematography and Robert Downey Jr. puppeteering some of the would-be heartwarming scenes.

What works about Sr. is the same thing that works (for me, at least) about Sr.’s films, and that’s Continue reading Greaser’s Palace (1972) is an (Unfulfilling) Weirdo’s Paradise