Manny Marquez’s “Psychopath” documents the tumultuous period in which his uncle Victor set out to build an ambitious horror attraction in the small Oklahoma town of Sperry. The gloriously named “Psycho Path” springs from Victor’s interest in make-up effects and his stalled ambition to become a Hollywood effects person. After purchasing a parcel of land and beginning construction Victor is met with opposition from his neighbors and some mild family indifference. As the opening date draws near Victor finds himself struggling against political forces, racism, and egos.
“Psychopath” contains the exact amount of underdog drama you can expect from this sort of documentary. Montages of levity appear just when we think Victor and his team can endure no more. Having worked as a garbage collector for a little over 30 years Victor is blunt about how many residents treat him because of this stigmatized occupation and race. Despite this a few residents ultimately come around and end up speaking on Victor’s behalf.
But where “Psychopath” finds its surest footing is in its examination of individuals negotiating their passions with their responsibilities.
Victor’s friend Mike and protégé Kage each confess their long-term goals of raising and providing for children. And while Mike’s admission is punctuated with a sense of satisfaction (he’s now living independently) Kage’s comments appear hollow, as though he’s come to accept this as his only real option. Kage smiles and performs for potential attendees and news reporters only to return to the small apartment he shares with his father and its crushing sense of an impending, inevitable domesticity. And while Victor may not be living his dream working in Hollywood effects he finds an outlet in the “Psycho Path” with a great deal of support from his wife, Suzette.
The bookend sequences of “Psychopath” find a more intimate voice for this conversation. As the film opens Manny sifts through piles of footage displaying Victor’s effects work complete with some rather incredible Klingon headpieces. The film closes with Victor and family riding through the “Psycho Path” grinning and jumping like they are on the ride for the very first time. We see here a delicate and deeply personal demonstration of Manny and Victor’s experience with a shared passion.