Studio: Shudder/RLJE Films
Director: Steven Kostanski
Writer: Steven Kostanski
Producer: Stuart F. Andrews, Shannon Hanmer, Steven Kostanski
Stars: Nita-Josee Hanna, Owen Myre, Matthew Ninaber, Adam Brooks, Alexis Hancey
Two kids discover a glowing gemstone that gives them control over a murderous monster exiled from another planet.
Time is a precious commodity. Especially the older one gets. That¡¯s why, in this ¡®Golden Age¡¯ of top tier television and so much media aggressively jockeying for our attention, you have to appreciate any movie that clearly communicates its entire tone in under 60 seconds. This way you know immediately if you¡¯ve boarded the right train or if you should exit asap. All it costs is the low, low price of only one minute.
¡°Psycho Goreman¡± tells you where it¡¯s coming from, and where it¡¯s going, with record speed. The flippantly fantastical and giddily gruesome film gets underway with deep-voiced narration over chancery font text talking about distant planets, dark destinies, and nameless evils. It¡¯s a bit of background about how the titular terror, nicknamed ¡®PG¡¯ for short, ended up imprisoned underground on Earth following his banishment by an alien alliance. It¡¯s also the first throwback touch giving ¡°Psycho Goreman¡± the distinct flavor of a 1980s dark fantasy film, which is a vibe the movie rides all the way through to its comedically chaotic conclusion.
Actual action opens with playfully sparring siblings Mimi and Luke engaging in an intense game of ¡®Crazy Ball.¡¯ When it isn¡¯t paying tribute to its cinematic influences, which is often, ¡°Psycho Goreman¡± channels the imaginative energy of a childhood you probably experienced firsthand, or have at least seen depicted in more Amblin-esque adventures than can be remembered. We¡¯re talking about carefree times when sisters and brothers temporarily table squabbles to play nonsense games with spur of the moment rules. They may slap and whine over who sits where at dinner. But they don¡¯t question backyard etiquette. So when losing demands that Luke dig a hole, he does what any honorable kid would and grabs a shovel.
Luke digs up a glowing gemstone that Mimi promptly takes possession of. She also takes possession of Psycho Goreman, who earns his moniker when the siblings see the grisly pile of gore where three thieves he mutilated used to be. The stone gives PG power. Power he previously used to become feared throughout the galaxy as a vicious destroyer of worlds. Now Mimi wields that power as Psycho Goreman¡¯s puppeteer. And she¡¯s using it to make PG her plaything. The question is, will PG¡¯s influential evil corrupt Mimi the more she exploits him? Or will the gundam-armored warrior known as Pandora arrive on Earth in time to force the violent genie back into his bottle?
As Mimi and Luke, young newcomers Nita-Josee Hanna and Owen Myre are an acquired taste, and that sentiment applies to ¡°Psycho Goreman¡± on the whole too. Although they exhibit cutely charismatic personalities, inexperience roughs up Hanna and Myre around the edges. Hanna¡¯s loudly projected precociousness will be particularly grating to some who are certain to see her as increasingly obnoxious the more her boisterousness balloons.
The two kids can get away with a lot of their over-acted behavior though. They aren¡¯t playing silly cartoon characters made flesh, but writer/director Steven Kostanski still turns up their exaggeration dials by about two clicks. In doing so, Kostanski redirects their choppiness into a smidge of over-the-top charm befitting the movie¡¯s slightly unserious tone. ¡°Psycho Goreman¡± lays out its menu upfront when Mimi and Luke scream at each other in slow motion with contorted faces while music plays that sounds like it¡¯s from a 1990s Nerf gun commercial on steroids. If the vague whiff of ham in the air doesn¡¯t whet your appetite during their opening interactions, then the cheeky meal ¡°Psycho Goreman¡± serves won¡¯t fill your belly either. Think ¡°Turbo Kid¡± (review here) with a chunky sauce of guerrilla grittiness.
¡°Psycho Goreman¡¯s¡± intermittent cheesiness is deliberately designed, but its subtle scent means it is rarely overpowering. If this actually were from the same era that inspired it, the film would be 100% serious, with any camp value being unintentional. Taking a jaunt in the Wayback Machine in this instance is merely a method for Kostanski and company to have fun with the filmmaking styles they were reared on. ¡°Psycho Goreman¡± hits up a number of vintage hallmarks like a ¡®trying on clothes¡¯ montage, a music video interlude, a group sing-along, and two end credits theme songs.
It¡¯s like a ¡°lost¡± ¡®80s film that isn¡¯t overtly cramming nostalgia down your throat at every turn. Set decoration doesn¡¯t go overboard with period props. Actors aren¡¯t costumed from an old Duran Duran closet. Homages acknowledge Ghostbusters, Robocop, Jurassic Park, Dungeons and Dragons, Clash of the Titans, Time Bandits, Power Rangers, The Gate, and more. Yet the references are woven into the way ¡°Psycho Goreman¡± shapes its mutant monsters, intergalactic soldiers, and weirdo creatures without devolving into a pastiche of what those old school movies were really like.
Tapping this vein also gives Kostanski an excuse to use stop-motion animation, puppetry, and other analog techniques to fill out the retro texture. Anyone familiar with Kostanski¡¯s background knows how seriously he and his collaborators take practical effects. ¡°Psycho Goreman¡± may be their most ambitious project on this front yet. Bodies melt, explode, tear in half, and turn into waddling little brain blobs. Oh, and everything is showered in copious blood. ¡°Psycho Goreman¡± could almost qualify as a family friendly film in a ¡®sticking its tongue out¡¯ way if not for the extremely gooey gore. What I¡¯m getting at is ¡°Psycho Goreman¡± is kind of a kooky kid flick for adults who remember countless afternoons of The Neverending Story, and want to see what a modern B-movie based on such sentiments would look like with the gnarliness ratcheted up to 11.
To quantify how the film portions its plate, I¡¯d say ¡°Psycho Goreman¡± is only 15% comedy, 15% action, 20% horror, and 50% drama. I could win a pull quote contest if I added, ¡°and 100% fun!¡± That would be a generous stretching of the truth. ¡°Psycho Goreman¡± is fun, but that factor is somewhere in the 70% range. Give or take 30% in either direction depending on how this quirky blend of flavors tantalizes your taste buds.
Remembering that I was set to see this at the SXSW that was cancelled in 2020, I can picture ¡°Psycho Goreman¡± playing perfectly to a midnight movie audience buzzed on spiked milkshakes while scarfing down pizza at The Ritz. If that brand of ¡®bring out the kid in you¡¯ weirdness isn¡¯t your speed, you¡¯re likely to be miserable. It¡¯s a good thing you¡¯ll know for sure long before the laid-back looniness could ever exhaust your patience. Because ¡°Psycho Goreman¡± doesn¡¯t waste time getting wild.
Review Score: 75