Trauma Therapy: Psychosis (2023) Review

Trauma Therapy: Psychosis (2023) Review

Trauma Therapy: Psychosis, or The Vance Institute as it was titled in the UK where it was released in its original form, has managed to stir up a bit of controversy ahead of its North American release. As initially written by David Josh Lawrence and Tom Malloy who wrote the original Trauma Therapy and filmed by Lawrie Brewster (The Black Gloves, Dragon Knight) the film did not include the scenes with Tom Sizemore (The Haunting of Hell Hole Mine, Project Skyquake).

They were filmed and edited in later without Brewster’s involvement leading to his using the pseudonym Gary Barth on it. Then to compound matters the first press releases from US distributor Quiver Distribution credited Brewster rather than Barth and called Trauma Therapy: Psychosis Sizemore’s last film despite a number of titles listed as completed or in post-production on IMDB.

Trauma Therapy: Psychosis opens on a creepy note as a man wielding a baseball bat walks into a dimly lit room covered in Nazi graffiti. He hits what looks like a mannequin with the bat only for blood to run down its arm.

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At this point, I was wondering how, given what it’s hinted at he did in the first film, he was able to avoid extradition let alone be allowed to resume his practice by the British authorities. But his adoring fans don’t care and a group of them,  Daniel (Craig J. Seath, The Devil’s Machine, The Necromancer), Lily (Courtney Warner, The Will, Ask Me to Dance), Nicole (Megan Tremethick, Ghost Crew, The Lockdown Hauntings), Frank (Gordon Holliday, Watch if You Dare, Blood’s a Rover), and Jesse (Jamie Scott Gordon, Lord of Tears, Bonejangles) are ecstatic to have been chosen for his next training class.

Vance’s methods start out conventional and familiar enough, having everyone talking around a bonfire and tossing items that represent their past into it, dressing them in identical outfits, cutting them off from contact with friends, family, or anyone outside the group, etc. It’s all familiar as devices of both alleged self help groups and of cults, assuming there is a difference between the two.

It isn’t long before the methods start to become more sinister, a masked assistant distributing a mandatory cocktail of “mental enhancing” pills, and constant reminders of the astronomical fee they’ll be hit with if they choose to leave, for example. It’s not long before their dwindling numbers and the presence of armed guards make them wonder if the cost of leaving is even higher than that.

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The tampering with the finished film by the producers makes it hard to judge the quality of Brewster and the cast’s work. While Trauma Therapy: Psychosis looks good in colour, with some nicely lit night shots standing out, that wasn’t how it was meant to be seen. The trailer for The Vance Institute is in icy black and white with two brief flashes of colour. Presenting it as a colour film changes the look and feel of it as anyone who has seen the colorized version of Casablanca or Night of the Living Dead can attest.

More problematic are the scenes with Sizemore and Lozano. They seem to be there to fill anyone who hasn’t seen the original, which will be most viewers, in on Vance and his history. But they’re set up so poorly that I only realized Victor was a major player in the first film when I looked at the actor’s credits. Even worse they’re intrusive, breaking the film’s momentum and pulling the viewer out of the story.

That story, while not exactly original, is nicely done for the most part as the survivors begin to realize that Vance doesn’t have their best interests at heart. There are some decent moments of tension along the way, but again the script undercuts itself with the late introduction of a character. They would be suspect enough entering the story when they do, but since we’ve previously seen them there’s zero doubt as to who they are and what their goal is.

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The cast does manage to acquit themselves nicely despite the re-edits. Tremethick in particular delivers an excellent performance and Malloy has a chilling coldness about him. The rest are solid and mostly avoid going over the top in their character’s more emotional moments.

Unfortunately Trauma Therapy: Psychosis never really manages to become more than a collection of good scenes and missed potential. How much of that is due to the tampering I can’t tell without having seen The Vance Institute. But the version I just saw is nothing special.

Quiver Distribution will release Trauma Therapy: Psychosis to Digital and VOD Platforms on September 1st.

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