It Came from the Camcorder: Psycho Pike

From our friends and neighbors in the Great White North comes Psycho Pike, the 1992 SOV eco-horror/ black comedy flick featuring a mutated fish capable of decapitating unwary anglers.

Brought to life by writer and director Chris Poschun, Psycho Pike follows four college students who travel to remote Lake Shippagew somewhere in the wilds north of Toronto for a weekend getaway. They are: couple Tim and Dara (Wayne McNamara and Sarah Campbell) and couple Reg and Rhonda (Douglas Kidd and Dawn Kelly). To add some personal drama, Tim and Reg are best friends, and Rhonda used to be Tim’s steady girlfriend, breaking up with him so she could hook up with Reg. That drama isn’t necessary to the plot, but something had to fill the spaces between the killer fish doing its thing, and infidelity is as good a device as any other.

The lake had been a popular tourist destination, but the area is changing, owing to the opening of a sawmill nearby. The effluent from the mill has been running into the lake, and there are concerns about contamination. Reg, as it happens, is the nephew of the mill’s owner, and the trip to the lake is a working vacation for him. He’s been taking samples of the water and sending them to a lab at the mill to be analyzed. When he learns that the lake is indeed being poisoned by the mill runoff, his uncle convinces him to replace the samples with water from a clean source, with the promise that the necessary equipment to filter the runoff will be installed soon. That’s a bunch of hooey, and Reg knows it, but he’s also been promised the family business after his uncle retires, and that promise is enough to override his morals. Everyone has a price, after all.

All that stuff isn’t why viewers would watch this flick, though. This is a cheap shot-on-video creature feature. We want blood. Lots of it.

There’s good news and bad news, there.

The opening of the movie shows great promise, as the titular psycho pike gets down to business before the title card. Then, viewers are forced to wait another half hour before the fish bags another victim. Who the hell does Poschun think he is? Ingmar Bergman?

He’s not, and I would never hold an SOV horror moviemaker to that kind of standard, but the creature in this flick is something of a howler, and a little more of it breaking up the slow spots would have been nice. The pike doesn’t get around to the main members of the cast until late in the movie, so Poschun serves up some decent fodder Psycho Pike VHS boxalong the way. There just needed to be more of it. The highlight kill for me was the real estate investor (Rene Sagolili) from Hong Kong who just saw his buddy get eaten, and has to fend off a flying pike with his kung fu skills. Poschun had his crew take their prop fish and throw it at Sagolili from off-camera multiple times. This scene was more tongue-in-cheek than the kind of inept moviemaking one would expect from a flick like this. In fact, while most of the humor in Psycho Pike is more eye-rolling than laugh-inducing, there are some genuine moments of hilarity scattered throughout the movie, and this is one of them.

Another successful bit of humor is the local color, in the form of gas station attendant Willy T (Cliff Makinson). Proving that even Canadians find their accents funny, Makinson lays on the patois when he tells the story of how he lost one of his eyes reeling in the pike mounted above the entrance to his store. That’s about as good as the humor gets, though.

Unlike many other SOV horror movies, Psycho Pike is no amateur production. There is proper editing and sound mixing. I was unable to find any info about a budget, but it had to be at least a few bucks. Rather than being a benefit, having an actual movie crew may have been a hindrance for Poschun, as very few chances were taken with content.

More watchable than many of its magnetic contemporaries, Psycho Pike still suffers from a case of the slows, and an overreliance on unfunny humor. The gore is decent, but used sparingly. SOV is where the shackles are supposed to be thrown off, yet Poschun made a movie that was almost restrained. It falls into the lower half of the Watchability Index, displacing Double Exposure at #297.

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