Review: 'Psycho Goreman'

By: Heather Seebach

Fans of Canadian filmmaking collective Astron-6 should already know the name Steven Kostanski but for the rest of you, this director last made waves about five years ago when he and collaborator Jeremy Gillespie made the Lovecraftian throwback, The Void. In addition to the impressive creature FX, I really appreciated that it was an earnest homage to 70s/80s cosmic horror. While it wore its influences heavily on its sleeve, it bypassed that winking meta snarkiness upon which so many modern throwbacks lean. 

In stark contrast to The Void, Kostanski's latest, Psycho Goreman is an all-out comedy but it succeeds where many splattery spoofs fail for one primary reason: it has heart; a sticky, bleeding heart ripped from some poor bastard's chest but heart nonetheless. The movie builds its gory insanity around the familiar E.T. storyline with two young siblings becoming unlikely guardians to a stray space alien. Only this time he is not interested in Reeces' Pieces and phoning home so much as devouring humans and destroying the universe. Known to the rest of the galaxy as the Archduke of Nightmares, this ancient evil was entombed on Earth by his enemies millions of years ago. 

Young Mimi (Nita-Josee Hanna) and her brother Luke (Owen Myre) unwittingly awaken the beast while digging in their backyard. They also uncover the key to his power: a glowing amulet known as the Gem of Praxidike. As long as Mimi holds it, the monster - now nicknamed Psycho Goreman (or PG, for short) - must obey the girl's every childish command. Meanwhile, the ancient beings who imprisoned PG descend upon this small suburban town to wage war for the fate of the galaxy. 

Much of Psycho Goreman's humor is derived from the characters' sheer obliviousness to the insanity happening around them. PG (played by Matthew Ninaber and Steven Vlahos) walks around town without much ado, despite the fact that he looks like Radu Molasar from Michael Mann's The Keep in shoulder pads. Mimi likewise shrugs off PG's constant threats to maim and dismember their weak human bodies. Intergalactic horror monsters appear? The kids are barely fazed. Someone gets turned into a giant brain? No biggie. Even when they dress PG up in clothing (like Dr. Alan Grant, no less, in a playful nod to Spielberg), it seems more for fun than out of any necessity to blend in. You just can't have an 80s homage without the obligatory dressing room montage, right? 

With this heightened state of bizarro reality, the movie is free to be as weird as it likes. Much like with The Void, the gore and creature effects deliver in spades. Forget CGI; this one relies on prosthetics, rubber suits, puppets, and even stop-motion animation. I was constantly impressed with the film's rogues' gallery of creatures, whose inspirations seemingly run the gamut from Japanese tokusatsu and Ray Harryhausen to Stuart Gordon and GWAR. If nothing else, fans of schlocky FX will delight in Psycho Goreman's monsters. My personal favorite is the strangely adorable councilmember, Tube-Man:

The film's "heart" comes from the family dynamic, and it is just as twisted and mangled as you might expect from a movie called Psycho Goreman. PG's arrival forces Luke to finally confront the fact that his sister is abusive and manipulative, and the siblings' relationship grows from the experience. All the while, they remain oblivious and selfish to the damage they have inflicted upon the universe in keeping PG as a pet. Meanwhile, their bickering parents - who I am convinced are the live-action embodiment of Beth and Jerry Smith from Rick & Morty - are equal parts clueless and neglectful. Nobody really learns anything which is hilarious and even twistedly endearing in an "us-vs-the-world" sort of way. 

Psycho Goreman does not achieve the perfectly balanced schlock and sincerity of a film like, say, Turbo Kid - it has neither the charming characters nor the production value - but it makes for an entertaining, over-the-top, and somewhat cynical comedy that fully embraces the nostalgia of an 80s Spielberg or Dante film where kids run the show, while simultaneously mocking the innocence of that subgenre. Furthermore, it does so without obnoxiously winking at its audience all the time. Finally, I want to mention the soundtrack, which is largely comprised of original hair metal (naturally), and PG even has his own rap song much like Freddy Krueger. Make sure to stay through the end credits so you can enjoy that little gem! 

out of 5

RLJE Films will release Psycho Goreman in theaters, On Demand, and digital on January 22nd, 2021. 

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