I’m not going to bury the lede. Psycho Goreman is the year’s most outlandish and over-the-top movie – and not just because this review drops in January. But it’s these bizarre fever-dream qualities that make watching the film such a blast.
Writer-director Steven Kostanski’s horror/sci-fi/comedy gives the audience a genre mash-up for the ages. Kostanski borrows familiar elements from a host of beloved ‘80s flicks. Think Spielberg’s E.T., but swap out Elliot and Gertie’s gentle little alien with the Predator. Wild right?
Mimi (Nita-Josee Hanna) and Luke (Owen Myre) are two siblings living in suburban America. Luke comes off as your run-of-the-mill boy next door. His younger sister Mimi is a whole other animal. She is abrasive, foul-mouthed, and domineering – if I had to bet on a diagnosis, my money is on sociopath. The character is a lot to handle, but the film plays her personality for laughs since we rarely see such R-rated behaviour from someone so young.
The kids discover an entombed alien being, the titular Psycho Goreman, aka PG (played by Matthew Ninaber and voiced by Steven Vlahos), buried in their backyard. PG is a powerful alien warlord who wreaked terror across the galaxy. So, long ago, PG’s enemies joined forces to capture their nemesis and trap him on earth. And by unlocking PG’s tomb, Mimi wields the power to control him.
PG wants to murder everything in his path, including Mimi and Luke, but the kids make him their plaything. With a terrifying alien killing machine at their side, the kids find themselves in all kinds of awkward (and hilarious) situations. There’s one major problem, though. PG’s enemies know someone freed him, and they send their allies to earth to take him down once and for all.
Kostanski and his team deliver 99 mesmerizing minutes of special effects wizardry. Psycho Goreman features over a dozen gorgeous-looking creatures that put most CGI movie monsters to shame. The film’s inspired creature designs run the gamut from gross AF (a walking pot of goo stewing in severed arms and legs) to stunning sci-fi (a sword-wielding angelic mech).
The costumes and creature designs are so distinctive and compelling that it makes PG’s world, as silly as it is, feel rich and lived in. I wanted to know more about the aliens and the film’s mythology.
And yes, I did call this movie silly. Kostanski riffs on many beloved (and often shitty) genre movies from the ‘80s and ‘90s. Psycho Goreman features ear-blistering electric guitar riffs, a musical number, and of course, a montage. Kostanski recreates the vibe of old-school horror, sci-fi, and fantasy flicks beat for beat, and mines humour from each genre’s tired cliches.
But Psycho Goreman is so much more than some spoof on B movies. Despite the cartoony violence, foul-mouthed kids, and irreverent tone, the film’s secret ingredient is its sentimentality.
You feel the filmmaker’s love, and respect for genre flicks bleeding into every scene. Kostanski knows that the cheese-tastic movies he grew up on weren’t always good, but that didn’t stop legions of viewers from falling in love with them anyway. So he never looks down on the campy material. His jabs at horror and sci-fi cliches are all in good fun because Psycho Goreman isn’t a spoof; it’s a celebration.
When the film ended, I couldn’t stop thinking about who the movie asks us to root for. PG is an interstellar warlord and an obvious villain. The aliens sent to earth to assassinate him are the story’s real heroes. They want to kill intergalactic Hitler, after all. Sure it’s fun watching him forced to humiliate himself as some kid’s plaything, but make no mistake, the universe is better off with this rotten bastard dead.
So should we relate to the story’s human characters? Because those jabronis aren’t winning a humanitarian award any time soon. Mimi, Luke, and their parents are kind of a mess. They’re protagonists, but they’re not heroes. Not even close. Even if you find Mimi’s boorish behaviour amusing, she’s still a terrible person. Luke means well, but his domineering sister bends him to her will. And their dad (a scene-stealing Adam Brooks) skates by in life, doing the bare minimum needed to get by.
This selfish and toxic family has no problem unleashing a destructive force on the world without considering (or caring about) the consequences. I couldn’t help but see some parallels to Trump-ism. These disaffected people let Godzilla loose on the city because they hate their neighbours and get off on the carnage. They don’t care if the world around them burns, so long as their own backyard isn’t on fire.
In a world without COVID, a joyful genre film homage like Psycho Goreman would make a great midnight madness selection. For now people must settle for socially distanced late-night watch parties.
Psycho Goreman is jam-packed with impressive practical effects, moody sets, and ruthless characters. But the film’s irreverent tone and many rubber-suited monsters are the stars of the show – this cast of creatures wouldn’t look out of place in Re-Animator, Evil Dead, or The Thing. Kostanski delivers a gleefully violent and ambitiously lo-fi love letter to campy ‘80s classics.