17th Aug2023

‘Trauma Therapy: Psychosis’ Review

by James Rodrigues

Stars: Tom Sizemore, Hannah New, Vince Lozano, Tom Malloy, David Josh Lawrence, Jamie Scott Gordon, Gordon Holliday, and Megan Tremethick | Written by Tom Malloy, David Josh Lawrence | Directed by Gary Barth

A sequel to 2019’s Trauma Therapy, the story continues as self-help guru Tobin Vance (Tom Malloy) arrives in the UK to avoid arrest from his US operations while secretly running more retreats. With the help of new assistants, he seeks to lure vulnerable individuals into a promised retreat to better themselves, yet the group are unaware of the nightmares awaiting them.

It should be noted that Trauma Therapy: Psychosis arrived with an air of controversy revealed on Twitter by director Lawrie Brewster. He considers this film to be an unauthorized re-edit of his film, with criticism aimed at it being “exploitative of Tom Sizemore’s death”, which left Brewster to request that the director credit be given to his pseudonym of “Gary Barth”. With that context in mind, much more of the choices made in this cut are understood as they are a result of outside meddling.

The key one is Sizemore’s inclusion, playing himself interviewing a former VP of the Vance Institute. The discussion of Vance’s previous self-help seminar transforming into a cult should be a speedy way to catch-up viewers that did not watch the previous film, yet it is forcibly presented as a framing device that is unnecessarily crowbarred around scenes.

Gathered around the campfire, Vance encourages the group to throw their personal belongings into the fire as a first step towards their “healing.” This offers a glimpse at the guru’s manipulations, getting under their skin by using keywords like “weak” to demean them for not following his orders. The participants are pushed to their limits by tests which offer resolution through emotional and physical torment, reflecting real-life organizations which promise so much while requesting penance. Hindering matters is how heavy-handed it all feels, with a scene of characters revealing their truths feeling like a hurdle instead of a key moment of understanding.

Editing choices feel questionable, particularly involving Vance follower John (David Josh Lawrence). He enters the program pretending to be a participant in order to manipulate the remaining candidates, yet the bizarre ordering of scenes deflates this key reveal as he is first introduced as a member of the Institute. There are also elements given little room to breathe, leaving character choices and their taken paths to feel rushed. While the starting point and endpoint are shown for vital moments, the journey in-between is strangely absent leaving little impact.

What is left is an odd mess that struggles to function, even divorced from the behind-the-scenes issues. I cannot be certain how Brewster’s authorized version fares compared to this, but it is worth mentioning that it was released in the UK under the title The Vance Institute.

½  0.5/5

Trauma Therapy: Psychosis will be released in theaters, on demand and on digital September 1st.


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