A low-budget indie starring a crazy MMA fighter as a crazy, murderous psychopath in a love letter to slashers of yore.
By Jason Hink
From ITN Distribution comes A Psycho’s Path, a direct-to-video thriller released to big-box stores and streaming digitally on Mill Creek Entertainment’s MovieSPREE service, starring Steve De Forest, Noel Gugliemi (credited as Noel G.), Derrick Redford, Rowan Smyth, Steve Louis Villegas, Kassim Osgood, Tory Taranova and flamboyant MMA brawler Quinton “Rampage” Jackson as a serial killer with seemingly no M.O. who haunts a small American town—not once, but twice—following his escape from custody.
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In the small, quaint town of 1960s Brownsville, residents are shocked from their complacency when a brutal murder takes place at a scumbag motel in nearby Brookdale. The perpetrator? Mute, growling, scary mofo John Doe (Quinton Jackson), the likes of which the townspeople have never seen and hope to never see again. Thankfully, the scuzzy hotel operator (Peter Organ in my favorite performance of the film) heard the woman’s screams, and was able to retrieve his pistol from the office in time to fire three rounds into the monstrous killer, but not before the damage was done, with the young woman suffering a horrid death.
But the podunkers of Brownsville aren’t out of the woods yet; the drifter took three bullets and survived, taking up residence in one of Brownsville’s three jail cells (you only need three in a town as peaceful as Brownsville, of course). Thankfully (not!), sincere, earnest Captain Peters (Steve De Forest) has received orders to transport the killer to a mental institution (and we all know what that means!). When the killer proves too much for the hospital staff, he does what any good movie killer does and returns to where he’s wanted the least—Brownsville. Leaving a string of apparently unrelated killings in his wake, it’s up to Captain Peters and his poorly dressed band of deputies to track him down and save the small town from further bloodshed.
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Written and directed by Rocky Costanzo (Ditch Party, Midnite Cabby), A Psycho’s Path is a competently made film considering the obvious limitations of its modest-budget scale, but it wears its indie spirit on its sleeve, dressing up the proceedings in a way that a late-night cable surfer might stumble upon it and stay intrigued, what with DP Dylan Martinez’s dusty, desert-tinted cinematography and smooth tracking shots providing a nice change of pace to the shadowy, heavy contrast of the more violent scenes where detail is sometimes difficult (likely intentionally) to make out.
But this is a low-budget affair, and with it comes all the things I love about these kinds of outings: the schlock…the camp…the flat performances…the obscuring of shoddy props. For instance, I was struck early on when I heard the phone ring in a character’s apartment. It was an old-school ringtone, and I thought to myself, Wait a minute, is this set in modern times? After taking a second look a the beginning of the film, there’s no title card saying that we’re not in modern-day Brownsville, though I suppose the costuming and props (a kid riding an old-school bike, for instance, or the murder victim’s late 60s muscle car) might have tipped me off had I been looking for it…but in reality, it looks to me more like how a small, modern rural town might look and operate (always behind the times and technologically inept).
But it is indeed a period piece. After digging around on the internet, I found a mention by a cast member that the film is set in the 1960s. Aside from some of the wardrobe, I eventually saw that all the phones are indeed rotary-dial phones. Later, when I laughed-out-loud at one deputy’s super baggy, ill-fitting uniform, I let it slide when I finally realized the film was set decades ago, when dress like that might have been more common…and the old-school police car they drove around sealed the deal (despite the large age cracks in the top of the dash seen in one fleeting shot).
Noel Gugliemi (also the film’s producer) and Derrick Redford are Captain Peters’ main deputies, and I didn’t feel the people of Brownsville were too safe watching them bumble about…but I did dig on Gugliemi’s obvious (and hilarious) wig, rivaled only by kind-hearted Officer Gomez (Steve Louis Villegas), also sporting wavy, ridiculous get-up (hey, I love this stuff; it only adds to the DIY charm). Kassim Osgood in the smaller role of Officer Jackson appears the only legitimate looking policeman in the cast, and David Ramak rounds out the police actors. Elsewhere, Tory Taranova plays a waitress at the local diner who fixes up Capt. Peters with his daily lunch (at first I thought there may be more to their relationship, what with Capt. Peters being a widow…but alas, it was only my imagination). Oh, and Diff’rent Strokes‘ Willis (Todd Bridges) also makes an appearance!
And that brings us to Quinton “Rampage” Jackson. I fondly recall the days when I wanted to make films, gathering up my friends to plow through my
crappy brilliant scripts (“Hey guys, wanna make a movie? Mom’s makin’ homemade pizza for whoever wants to be in it.” Sure, Jason, making movies sounds fun! “Thanks guys. Well, the pizza’s gone…maybe next time we can actually shoot some film Video8…”). Of course, nothing ever came to fruition, and I learned that writing is more my style (solitary, less people, no reliance on a “team” of humans)…but those planning stages were fun, especially wading through late 90s internet resumes of low-budget scream queens charging $5,000-20,000 to appear in your sh*tty little film because you had to have them in order for your film to garner any publicity.
My dalliances playing around with independent filmmaking are nowhere close to the level of A Psycho’s Path, but I imagine the producers’ hiring of a “name” figure like “Rampage” Jackson (The A-Team, Fire With Fire) couldn’t have hurt sales…and it’s a good casting choice. Jackson, without a single line of dialogue and sporting a crazy, wild head of hair, comes off just as scary and crazy as he is in the octagon during his MMA battles. His final showdown with Captain Peters and the cat-and-mouse with the deputies and Peters’ young son (youngster Rowan Smyth in a nice performance) are legitimately chilling.
Produced by Gugliemi’s Entangled Entertainment along with Hourglass Pictures and Stroboscope Studios, ITN’s release of A Psycho’s Path is just fine (and just the right length at 84 minutes) with some light scares, a few unintentional laughs, and some fun kills for a Halloween-inspired tribute to 80s slasher films.