“Psychotic!” is what you would call a love letter to Brooklyn, if that letter was also covered in blood and pot residue. This trippy, low-budget ode to Giallo-style horror of the ’60s and ’70s — written and directed by Brooklynites Derek Gibbons and Maxwell Frey — follows a crew of indie musicians as they’re stalked by the masked Bushwick Party Killer.
Through a haze of bong smoke, the film emerges as both a sendup and accurate depiction of the infamously artsy party scene across the Hudson from Manhattan.
“If it took place in a small town in upstate New York,” Gibbons told us, “we wouldn’t have that creative liberty to say, ‘All these characters are crazy people.’”
amNewYork spoke with Gibbons and Frey to get an idea of why New York’s most crowded borough is the ideal setting for a drug-fueled horror flick.
You’ve been screening this film at festivals since 2016. Has it changed for you since then?
Maxwell Frey: It’s funny because we were in such a rush with the postproduction that literally, the day of, we handed them the hard drive at the Brooklyn Horror Fest. We never really had a chance to soak it in before we started premiering it and screening it. So now we’re always sort of discovering new things and things we like about it.
Do you remember where this idea of setting a horror film in Brooklyn came from?
MF: A lot of stuff in the movie is stuff that happened in real life. There have definitely been some parties that we’ve gone to that have gotten a little scary. At some point we were like, “there’s a horror movie here in the party scene of Bushwick.” Because it can be a trippy world full of weird, strange rangers. There’s some creeps out there. Just young, crazy kids.
Derek Gibbons: Having it take place in Bushwick, you have some freedom to make caricatures of your characters. Every character is ridiculous, or takes themselves very seriously, but they’re all based on people we bumped into at parties and around the city. We’re both from small towns, originally. I think that outsider perspective makes Brooklyn more claustrophobic and more stressful. Paying rent here is as stressful as avoiding a murderer.
Do you see different reactions when you screen the movie for people who aren’t as familiar with Brooklyn?
DG: We had a screening up in Verona [upstate], and Max attended a screening in Portland, Oregon. People responded just as well. I think people already have this idea of Brooklyn being weird and crazy. After shows like “Girls” and “Broad City,” Brooklyn is a thing now. People have an idea of what it might be.
Is there any story from the Brooklyn party scene that especially influenced the movie?
DG: A friend of ours in college, who I won’t name, he would always get really wasted at the end of every party. Use profanity, just be like, “[Expletive] you for starting this band. [Expletive] you for getting to sleep with your friends.”
MF: There’s one scene [in “Psychotic!”] where Derek’s character tells everyone off, it’s almost word for word what our friend said to us.
DG: We actually shot part of the movie at his house. I don’t think he ever caught on.
IF YOU GO: “Psychotic!” screens 7:30 pm. Thursday at Nitehawk Cinema ( 136 Metropolitan Ave., Williamsburg), 8 p.m. Friday at Film Noir Cinema (122 Meserole Ave., Greenpoint), and 6:30 p.m. Saturday at Videology (308 Bedford Ave., Williamsburg). It will also be available VOD starting Friday.