By Tony Sokol
Talk about a perfect premise for a psychological thriller. The monster at the middle of The Scarapist is a therapist, an ordinary person with some kind of a psych degree. That should be the very definition of psychological thriller and, while the film doesn’t hit on all cylinders all the time, it does have the power to mess with your head.
The Scarapist is based on an essay by the writer, co-director and star Jeanne Marie Spicuzza, who was a victim of therapy abuse. She flashes a bit of Cinéma vérité early in the film by mixing recordings of what appears to be the real therapist in question and the mind-bending metaphysician of the film.
As I watched the movie, I was reminded of many of the traps that new filmmakers fall prey to, even as I fell under the spell of the villain at its center. I Loved a lot of aspects of the obviously very personal film and understand the limitations on what kinda fell short for me.
Ilse is such a strong personality and Katy Colloton of TV Land’s Teachers is both magnetic and repellant, though not in equal measure. The opening psychological stuff hooked me. As a matter of fact my eyes even closed once when the scarapist told them to, I particularly liked a segment that used nothing but a white screen when the therapist was about to start talking and a buzzing fly bit that plays with subliminal perception.
You lose a little of the sympathy for the main character, Lana, played by screenwriter and co-director Jeanne Marie Spicuzza, by how easily she succumbed to the therapist’s control even as she was obviously already wary of the woman. Of course, this is because Lana is doomed to follow the patterns of abusive authority figures. Spicuzza is positively terrified of her new husband even as she flirts with the temptation of inspiring his wrath by falling deeper into the therapist’s suggestions. She invites the drug-peddling sadomasochist right to her house.
As the film centers into the paranoia of the main we get caught up in the mania. At times it seemed like the recorded voice of the real therapist was coming out of the actor’s mouth. Of course, maybe I was hypnotized.
There is a sensual thread throughout the film as the Ilse gets so deeply into the mind of her client. The intimacy she brings to the sessions and the very realistically hypnotic tone of the voice. The ending is a bit of a copout, but the filmmaker promises that she has two sequels on the drawing board.
Co-directed by Synthian Sharp and Jeanne Marie Spicuzza, who wrote the screenplay, The Scarapist also R. Michael Gull as one of the therapist’s mind controlled minions and Kyle Walsh as Nathan.
3 out of 5 stars.