Friday, October 27, 2023

Ten Days of Terror!: Psychomania (The Death Wheelers)

Film: Psychomania (The Death Wheelers)
Format: Streaming video from Tubi TV on Fire!

Based on one of the release names of this film, you might guess that this is a biker movie, and you’d be right about that. What feels more unlikely is that this is a British movie. British biker thugs feels like a stretch, and yet here we are—and in a large sense, there is a bit of a connection here to a film like Quadrophenia. The Rocker-style motorcycles and leather are where the similarities end, though. This is very much a horror film, and there are odd connections here to films like The Wicker Man. This is a sort of small village horror film with connections to a deeper evil, pagan gods and standing stones.

This is about a British biker gang, but don’t think about them as drinking tea and eating biscuits. Tom Latham (Nicky Henson) loves his mother (Beryl Reid), his girlfriend Abby (Mary Larkin), and creating mayhem with his motorcycle gang, The Living Dead. His mother, along with the family butler Shadwell (George Sanders in his final film) hold séances and worship an ancient frog god. While Tom and his gang cause problems and hang out at a set of standing stones called The Seven Witches, we learn that his father disappeared from a room in the family house.

Tom enters the room on his 18th birthday, despite looking as if he is at least 25. We he sees is the Frog God, and he learns that his father killed himself in an effort to come back. Tom’s mother tells him that the reason he failed to return is that he ultimately doubted that he would come back. Tom, though, has no such compunctions. He kills himself, is buried by his fellow gang members, and soon returns. Now that he’s dead, Tom is completely without morals and is also completely unkillable. Seeing this, his gang members soon follow suit and kill themselves in turn. One evidently had doubts, but the rest return and start causing mayhem without any real possibility of something bad happening to them.

The exception to this is Abby, who decides she wants to keep living. Overwhelmed by the sudden crime spree and completely unable to do anything to the people perpetrating it because they are already dead, the local police chief inspector (Robert Hardy) asks Abby for whatever help she might be able to provide. And, of course, there is the question of what Tom’s mother might do when she sees what her son is doing.

Psychomania is very clearly a horror movie, but it’s not one that tries very hard to be that scary. When our various members of The Living Dead return, they look exactly the same as they did before they died—no weird skin color, no necrosis, nothing. This might well be because Psychomania didn’t have much of a budget and this was certainly a great way to save some money. After all, they did put some cash into the leather biker outfits and the custom helmets.

In truth, I like the idea of Psychomania more than I like the actual movie, although the movie is not bad. The Death Wheelers is honestly a better title for this as well, and it’s the one they really should have gone with. In a real sense, this tones down the horror because it amps up the criminal elements of it. There is a sense that this comes across as a member less of the horror genre and more the teen rebel/biker subgenre with some supernatural elements.

I’ll be really blunt here in the sense that my issues with Psychomania might not be the fault of the movie. The copy that I found streaming on Tubi was really, really difficult to watch. The visual quality was fine, but there were real problems with the audio track—it sounded like a neighbor was mowing their lawn. Actually, it really sounded like someone was running the movie on an old school projector, which might well have been the case. I try hard to be to blame the movie for this kind of problem, but its hard not to have it affect my opinion.

I liked this pretty well. It’s a fun idea, and while the execution isn’t perfect, it works pretty well for what it wants to be.

Why to watch Psychomania: Imagine what this would be like if you threw in Mods and Rockers.
Why not to watch: There has to be a better copy of this somewhere.


  1. This actually sounds like a fun-ass film.

  2. This really isn't my kind of film so I guess it is little surprise that I hated it more or less completely. Normally I would have given it the go by but being the last film of George Sanders I gave it a try. Well box checked and that's all it was good for.

    What an unfortunate note to close out such a brilliant career, it's right up there (or more correctly down there) with poor Veronica Lake's "Flesh Fest".

    1. I know it's not really your style. I found it fun, although the premise is genuinely better than the actual movie.