Blood Sick Psychosis (2022)

There’s nothing punks and metalheads love to debate more than authenticity and scene cred, so that’s the only critical lens I could think to apply to the no-budget slasher Blood Sick Psychosis. Set in Philadelphia’s D.I.Y. metal scene, Blood Sick Psychosis is a dual throwback to SOV camcorder horrors and the earlier metalsploitation trend of the Satanic Panic era. So, I’d argue it loses a few punk authenticity points for indulging in retro genre pastiche instead of being true to its era.  It clearly admires no-budget horror “classics” like the Canuxploitation slasher Things, Tina Krause’s surrealist headscratcher Limbo, and the Paloma Brothers’ home video gross-out Hallucinations, only modernizing its feature-length homage to that era with an updated crust-metal soundtrack and a few stray shots of cellphones.  It’s a loving copy of a pre-set SOV slasher template, presented in the exact way most of the movies it emulates are seen by modern audiences: frequently interrupted by ad breaks on subscription-free streamers like Plex.  Whether you find that style of pastiche charming is a question of taste, but the movie opens with its villainous lead having a Crispin Glover-sized emotional breakdown while wearing a River’s Edge promotional t-shirt, so you can’t say you were not warned.

Where Blood Sick Psychosis racks up its punk-cred authenticity points is in the way it continues the true mission of retro SOV slashers: documentation of its filmmakers having a good, wholesome time.  Like all great regional, no-budget horrors, it’s basically community theatre.  Blood Sick Psychosis drags its audience through a guided tour of the drive-in movie theaters, squat basement music venues, and cheesesteak shops of modern Philadelphia, all presented through the prism of VHS tape warp.  No detail in its plot about a depressed metalhead loner who goes on a senseless killing spree with his acid dealer matters as much as its survey of a local D.I.Y. show starring the Philly-based black metal band Spiter, who encourage their audience “to kill yourself for Satan” before serenading them with the mantra “Suicidal bloodfucker, vampiric bloodsucker”.  This is an on-the-ground document of a scene and, even though I’ve never been, I’ve always gotten the impression that Philly is the exact performatively cold & cruel D.I.Y. subculture captured in this gnarly self-portrait.  Even when the camera cuts away from reality to indulge in LSD vampirism, paranoid rants about bodily mutations, and the ritualistic slaughter of animals, it still plays like a charming little caricature of the City of Brotherly Love.

Punk infighting about posers & stolen valor has always been incredibly tedious, and I don’t mean to participate in it with any sincerity.  I just thought it would be fun to pick at this movie from that angle, since it’s about the exact scene-obsessed dipshits who would care about that kind of thing.  In its most telling scene, our two LSD-crazed serial killers chat outside the Spiter show about how annoying it is that punk screenings of Extreme Cinema are all tagged with trigger warnings now, both voicing a genuine frustration with modern punk culture sensitivity and, by the time the conversation reaches its punchline, mocking the reprobates who would oppose that sensitivity.  Its playdough claymation credits, Jackass-style “creepy crawl” home invasion pranks, and spectacularly lazy Dave “The Rock” Nelson cameo (seemingly a direct homage to legendary pornstar Amber Lynn’s half-hearted participation in Things) are all overt signals to the audience that it’s just having a laugh, often at its own expense.  That willingness to self-satirize really helps smooth over the overtly retro genre nostalgia and slasher-standard misogyny that creeps in at its weakest points.  Personally, I’d be more interested in a version of this movie that actually reflects the tools & textures of its digital-video times, but this movie wasn’t made for me.  It was made for the cold-hearted metalhead brutes of Philly, who appear to be having a lot of fun.

-Brandon Ledet

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