|"Oh boyyy, chocolate cake...."|
"Psychopath" from 1985 comes across at first as the sort of absurdly bad movie that wouldn't feel out of place next to The Room or Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 2. The acting is stiff and inconsistent, the music is inappropriately cheerful whenever the protagonists are on screen, regardless of how grim their dialogue is, and the first death scene is so anticlimactic that it feels more like a slapstick comedy than a mid-80s slasher film.
Powering through the layers of bad, however, we find a surprisingly poignant examination of the culture of child abuse in a time when society was far more oblivious, if not accepting, in regard to the effects of mistreating children. Even to this day, it's not uncommon for my stupid Facebook friends to share memes about the "good ol' days" when parents were allowed to spank their children for misbehaving. They seem to think this form of physical discipline turned the children into upstanding, respectful members of society and not broken machines struggling to perform their function in the network and constantly fearing the point of obsolescence, when they expect to be destroyed and thrown away.
Throughout Psychopath, we see numerous cases of mental and physical child abuse occurring in front of the camera, and we see that the other children and adults in the area seem to give no fucks. Even when one of the other parents does seem uncomfortable with the situation, they almost never speak up. The only characters who do seem to have any regard for the well-being of these kids are the police, the doctors, and of course the Psychopath.
The plot itself is pretty basic, with the focus being on a mentally ill children's entertainer who, as a result of childhood trauma, never really grew up inside. He forms deep bonds with the kids he entertains, particularly those at a hospital where abused children are taken far too frequently. In an attempt to punish bad parents, just as his parents had punished him, the man sets out on a slow-burning rampage as local detectives struggle with the uncomfortable nature of the crimes as much as they struggle to solve them.
Like I said, there's a lot wrong with this movie and in some ways that works in its favor. It can be considered "so bad it's good," and there are definitely laughs to be had. The sheer vitriol the adult characters display for their children, however, struck a personal chord with me and became very difficult to watch at times. I think if it hadn't been so silly, this movie would have been more than a little too dark.
Be nice to kids.