31 Days of Horror Presents Prime in the Dustbin: ‘Psychophobia’ (1985)

Psychophobia seems like a standard ghost story on the surface, but there’s less there than meets the eye. That is, unless you’re looking for terrible performances and flowery dialogue that makes zero sense. In that case, you have found the treasure. This is the Destination Truth of rottenness. Josh Gates would be rolling around on this film like a dog in a cattle pen.

Eva (Mary Saint Peter) has a couple of problems. Her husband, Charles, has died in a mysterious plane crash. We know this from the three totally unrelated pieces of stock footage that depict this incident. There’s the small plane in the air, bellowing smoke, obviously in distress. This is followed by the much larger plane on the ground, engulfed in flame. After that, we see the body on the tarmac, burning like a candle with toes. Put them all together and they spell “lawsuit,” a word that means the world to Eva. She’s hoping her husband’s company will take the responsibility for him being on that flight. It isn’t looking good, though, and getting a dime out of that firm could take years. Hence, Eva is behind on her mortgage, and the director of the real estate firm is of no real assistance. “I’d like to help you, and I would,” he says, “but I can’t.” This is nonsense. It means nothing. Nonetheless, he gives Eva ten days to pay up, or she’s out on her rump, along with the kids.

But Eva’s kids are assholes. They jump out at her in a darkened room, wearing masks. She doesn’t think it’s funny, especially when the kids say that the man who was in their house told them to do it. He came in through the window, they tell her, and she is remarkably unconcerned by this bit of news. This stranger knew everything about the place, from where the bathroom was to where the peppermint flavoring for the coffee was kept. How could this be? You don’t think the intruder had anything to do with Eva’s late husband, do you?

There’s no time to think about that because the mortgage guy has shown up at the house. He is finally willing to help Eva, as long as she balls him on the couch. Well, that’s a terrible plan, only interrupted by the ringing of the doorbell. There’s no one there, and the bank guy wonders aloud if it could be a ghost. Geez, you don’t think the phantom doorbell ringer had anything to do with Eva’s late husband, do you?

Eva kicks the old horndog out. She really shouldn’t have trusted the president of a financial institute who drives a Volkswagen Rabbit anyway. And then, the would-be rapist is strangled in his tiny beige car by a mysterious black-gloved killer. It’s murder in the suburbs, but come on. You don’t think that killing had anything to do with Eva’s late husband, do you?

Well, of course it does. The whole stupid movie does. The question is, when will Eva finally figure out what the audience already knows? Her husband has returned from the grave and is pathetically trying to make contact. Eva is dumb, and so is everyone around her. When her children come down with simultaneous headaches and start writhing around like they’re in the witness box at the Salem Witch Trials, the dumb doctor says he “made thorough cranial explorations” on the kids. Does he understand what that implies? Is brain surgery necessary when one presents with a headache? What happens if you’re constipated?

Eva’s lawyer friend is not any smarter. When Eva talks about all the things that have been happening and how she believes they relate to each other, plainly and effectively laying out how all these things are connected, the lawyer says, “I don’t think there’s any connection.” Really? What about Eva’s late husband?

Maybe the parapsychologist called in to investigate the case is more intelligent. “There are no witches, no ghosts,” he says. “Just immaterial energetic forces that act in another dimension.” This does nothing to explain how forces from another dimension show up in this one, but it might have something to do with Eva’s late husband.

The house may be a magnet for these immaterial energetic forces because the people who used to live in Eva’s house practiced black magic. The next house they lived in burned to the ground, again, because of black magic (although it might have had something to do with Eva’s late husband). These facts don’t make a dent in Eva’s sponge brain, though. Eva can’t figure out why her house has gone creepy. The parapsychologist, whom I refer to as Dr. A. Expert, can’t come to a quick decision. Is everyone in this movie a total moron? I’m so glad we didn’t get to know Charles, Eva’s late husband!

It cannot be stated enough: every single person in Psychophobia is an absolute idiot. They talk too much, and they talk around things. I love it when the lawyer tells Eva that he won’t be in town for a while. That should be enough, right? No. “I’ve got a pretty heavy case load,” he says. “And I have things to do. And I have a couple of trips to take.” Well, all right, Mr. Overexplainer, so why do you reappear in the movie ten minutes later? How long were you really gone? Did your shortened absence have anything to do with Eva’s late husband?

When the psychic powers really start flying around, they are heralded by what might be a short shot from a fire extinguisher. A quick puff of mist and a glass explodes. White smoke means mind bullets in Psychophobia, which has nothing to do with either psychoses or phobias. There is, however, a credit which states that this movie was associated produced by the Orgaro Wax Museum. Having all that wax simulacra money certainly made this a better film, didn’t it? I’m sure you can thank director/writer Stefano D’Arbo for all of that, even if he did choose to use the pseudonym, Seymour Darbowitz. It’s such a better name to go by. At least it’s not “Charles.”

There’s a five-minute plot in a ninety-minute film here, and sitting through the entire thing is not easy. Good luck if you try it, which you can, because Psychophobia is on Prime Video right now. I hope that particular listing doesn’t have anything to do with Eva’s late husband, but it does. Everything does. God help us all.

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