Saturday, October 2, 2010

Psychomania (1973)

It sometimes feels like zombies have been through all kinds of jobs and statuses. So far, they've been Nazis (Too many films to count), Etruscans ("Burial Ground: The Nights of Terror"), mastered the martial arts ("Kung Fu Zombie", "Ninja vs. Zombie") and several other occupations. Hell, even the biker isn't safe. Yes, there's been zombie bikers, ranging from the Shot on Video Atrocity "Hot Wax Zombies on Wheels" (Believe me when I say the title is the best thing the movie has going for it) and Michel Soavoi's essential Italian flick "Cemetery Man." What one doesn't realize that the first movie to do this was Don Sharp's 1973 oddity "Psychomania."

Tom Latham (Nicky Henson) is the leader of a ruthless biker gang named The Living Dead. After entering a forbidden room at his place (he's rich and lives with his mom BTW), he discovers some dark secrets, as well as how to die, and then come back as one of the undead. Well, he tries this, and taa-daa, it works! The next thing you know, the other members of the biker gang are doing the same thing, and they seem to be invincible.

Not a particularly scary movie, "Psychomania" is still a fun but all around strange little movie that seems to take a real fondness for oddball psychedelic images. There's plenty to praise here, as the acting is better than one might expect from a movie like this. Henson in particular stands out, clearly having the time of his life, and at times coming off as a less sadistic version of Alex from "A Clockwork Orange." Also, whereas other biker/horror movie hybrids might have failed to live up to expectations ("Werewolves on Wheels" anyone?), it manages to get by with a fast pace and sense of dark humor that's pretty infectious. Then there's the great score by John Cameron, which is full of fuzzy guitars, organs, and other instruments. It's just a really enjoyable psychedelic rock score that suits the tone of the film perfectly.

If the movie does have any problems, it's that there's little to any logic to go by here. Why doesn't Tom's mother (Beryl Reid) seem to show that much concern for Tom and his gang's antics until the film is almost over. And while there is somebody on the case, where are all the police while these guys are running roughshod through England? Maybe it's just me, but come on, give us some kind of explanation.

As it stands, "Psychomania" is still plenty of campy fun that serves as good nighttime entertainment for fans of the more unusual side of horror cinema. Besides, with the words "zombie bikers", you get a lot of what you wanted, and then some.

Rating: 7.5/10

Apart from this, director Murphy has also directed 'Witchcraft", "Rasputin the Mad Monk", "Kiss of the Vampire", "The Curse of the Fly" and several other British genre films.

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