Half-baked horror-thriller Psychopaths plays like a dry run for an atmospheric homage to '50s horror comics like Tales from the Crypt. Writer/director Mickey Keating (Carnage Park, Darling) uses flimsy plot twists to connect vignettes about a group of killers who are mysteriously compelled to go on a crime spree after death-row serial murderer Henry Starkweather (producer Larry Fessenden) curses them to follow in his footsteps.
Crisscrossing subplots about a possessed cabaret singer (Ashley Bell) and a "nice guy" cop (Jeremy Gardner) are barely distinguishable from each other given Keating's preference for kitschy costumes and theatrical scenery-chewing over polished dialogue and thoughtful characterizations. Viewers are likely to check out emotionally after a peroxide-blonde prostitute (Angela Trimbur) turns the tables on a mustachioed hipster (James Landry Hebert) by sticking a hypodermic needle in his neck as he laughably tries to gain her trust, saying "C'mon now, do I look like a bad guy to you?"
Keating's joylessly flamboyant villains sometimes seem compelling thanks to his meticulous use of negative space and evocative mood lighting. He captures newcomer Sam Zimmerman's best side in a scene where Zimmerman's "Mask," a silent, disfigured gunman, cautiously squints through a peephole in his warehouse hideout's front door. A dawn-blue light washes over Zimmerman's bandaged face as one eyeball scans for movement offscreen.
But Keating's vision appears laughably shortsighted whenever his baddies have to scream and/or slay their way through a gauntlet of nonsensical set pieces. Psychopaths might have been great if its boogeymen were as interesting as they looked.