There is a lot of good Spanish language horror cinema in the world. I was looking through an IMDB list of such the other day, and was stunned by the number and quality of films. But that doesn't mean that every Spanish language horror film is going to be good. Psychophony, though it has a fairly intriguing premise, is at best mediocre.
Dr. Jara (Merce Montala) is a psychiatrist with a controversial theory, namely that schizophrenia has a supernatural rather than a chemical or biological cause. Along with the help of her nurse Luz (Leyla Rodriguez) and paranormal researcher Matt Kram (Raul Alvarez) she devises an experiment, which consists of spending a week in a haunted house with a bunch of schizophrenic and recording it all. How exactly this qualifies as an experiment is unclear, though at one point Jara and Matt decide that they've "proven" their thesis.
The schizophrenics are a diverse lot: young and naïve Ainara (Claudia Pons) who has survived a seafaring accident and suffers from amnesia, too cool Sergi (Ferran Carvajal), prissy Kai (Dafnis Balduz), Celda (Tania Sarrias) who still talks to her dead daughter, and stuffy Quino (Ferran Albiol) and his wife Graciela (Babeth Ripoll). They've all agreed to stay at the remote house, with various degrees of enthusiasm.
It doesn't take long for strange things to start happening, and the spirit of the house to begin its manifestation: Ainara's clothing is shredded, the piano plays itself, there are eerie voices and hallucinations, and things get worse from there.
The biggest problem with Psychophony is one I've alluded to previously, we're never really sure what the point of the experiment is, what it wants to prove, what the stakes are, or what is going on. Sure, there are the ghosts of little kids, traumatic memories, a vengeful spirit, séances, bargains with the forces of darkness, etc. But it's all sort of a muddle, with little sense of plot or events moving forward in any kind of orderly fashion. The characters are likeable and relatable, for the most part, and the performances are actually quite good. But there's not much for these actors to do that has a point.
In the end, Psychophony is too much of a confused mess to truly thrill. It's got a few tense moments, but it doesn't really build or maintain a sense of fear or dread. It has the standard "based on a true story" line, and even has segments that are labeled as authentic footage of the real events, but it never pushes this aspect enough for it to be more than an oddity. It's not a bad movie, just a confused one. Rent it.
Video is 1.78:1 widescreen, and looks okay, although there is a fair amount of aliasing throughout. However, this review is based on a check disc, so no comment can be made on the quality of the final product.
Audio is Dolby digital 2 channel, and sounds decent. The dialogue is always audible. There are always on subtitles for the non-Spanish speakers in the audience, though these do drop at least once, briefly. However, this review is based on a check disc, so no comment can be made on the quality of the final product.
No extras are included. However, this review is based on a check disc, so no comment can be made on the quality or quantity of extras on the final product.
Psychophony is a mediocre film, with some really good aspects. The performances are good, as are the effects. The house they use as a location works well, though the decision to shoot mostly during the day undercuts the desired dread they seemed to be aiming for. It's not awful, but not terribly impressive.