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First Look Review - GRANDPA'S PSYCHO

An aging religious fanatic kidnaps and tortures young women.



Review by Benjamin Poole (@filmclubchs)

Directed by: Danny LeGare

Starring: Gunther Grambo, Alexandra Kane, Tracey Kane, Kim Mulhauser, Ashley Tramonte, David Gere, Nicole Bardis



As a torture porn throwback Grandpa's Psycho delivers the ugly goods, and there’s also a deliciously upsetting and deeply weird last act twist that transposes the title’s apostrophe from a contraction to a shocking possessive marker.


Are cinematic grandfathers having a (senior) moment? As I write, the marketing of De Niro’s Dirty Grandpa is at a cringeworthy peak, while, at the classier end of the culture, a dignified Stallone has mumbled his way to an Oscar nod for the wondrous Creed. Somewhere in the middle lurks Grandpa’s Psycho’s most cantankerous of grumpy old men, Grandpa Murray (played with requisite menace by the appositely named Gunther Grambo), the eponymous gripper and murderous villain of writer/director Danny LeGare’s grimy and gritty psychological thriller.
Unlike Bobby or Sly, LeGare’s bugged out Bampa isn’t about copping off with women young enough to be his granddaughter, or earnestly coaching a cocky young buck to vicarious glory. His old age crisis is a deadly exaggeration of the frustration that a lot of men of a certain age experience as they struggle to accept their increasing marginalisation - an impotent rage against the world. But while most geezers are satisfied yelling at kids on their lawn or complaining that you can’t hear the words in modern music, Bible bashing Murray stalks, captures and tortures young women who he feels contravene his Old Testament moral code. Well, they do advise to keep active as you get older.
Grambo is superb as the nutty Gramps. Looking like John Malkovich on a particularly bad come down, he exudes palpable menace with his rigid grimace and seething nostrils. The dominance of Grambo’s danger is part of the film’s problem though, as we are also supposed to accept Murray as a doting Pop-Pop to young granddaughter Chipmunk (Alexandra Kane), caring dad to single mother Lisa (Tracey Kane) and beloved member of the community. We know this because we are told as much by the film’s characters, but it never really rings true - this guy is an utter oddball, and has none of the convincing charm that makes, say, Terry O’Quinn in The Stepfather, so frightening. In a bizarrely theological discussion with one of his captives, Murray refers to himself as ‘an instrument of the Lord, a tool’. Well, he’s at least half right there… As a religious maniac, this loopy Pawpee selects his victims based on what he feels are slights made upon God’s will. But why do these movie maniacs always choose the most contentiously censorious scripture to abide by? Where is the beautiful Hebrew poetry of The Song of Solomon? What happened to judge not, that ye not be judged? It’s almost as if this complete dick is using the Bible to excuse his murderous instincts, a theory borne out by the manner in which Murray strips his victims bare before exerting agonizing mastery upon them. Yeah, we’re back in mid-noughties torture porn territory here, with all the queasy audience positioning that sub-genre implies.
The women that Murray captures are presented as dreadful, all dressed in interchangeable low cut tops/high skirtage, and profanely communicating in a shrewish patois that is half flirtatious, half confrontational. Are we meant to think they deserve their horrible ends for being a bit annoying and sexy? By using such superficial depictions, the film robs these characters of any potential empathy. This makes Grandpa’s Psycho a bit of a slog, an endurance test that is compounded by the film’s slow pacing and non-linear structure: in a series of flashbacks, we watch the bad Grandpa stalk and eventually capture one victim, sequences that are entirely un-suspenseful because we’ve already seen her in captivity and being brutalised in the most over the top whips and chains sequence this side of Fifty Shades of Grey.
If this all seems a bit nitpicky, then it’s because the potential of Grandpa’s Psycho is manifest. As said, Grambo is great, the movie has a compellingly crafted unpleasant feel and the various enumerations of the Bible credit the film with a degree of literacy. As a torture porn throwback it delivers the ugly goods, and there’s also a deliciously upsetting and deeply weird last act twist that transposes the title’s apostrophe from a contraction to a shocking possessive marker. However, by that point, the relentless belligerent grim of Grandpa’s Psycho made me want to sit the film in a quiet corner with a nice blanket and bag of Werther’s Originals until it calmed down and peacefully nodded off.
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