A title like Psycho Goreman is certainly an eye-catcher. Then there’s the optics of a seven-foot-tall ancient alien killing machine playing the most high stakes game of dodgeball you’ve ever seen with two young kids. It’s only the fate of the planet and probably the galaxy that hang in the balance, NBD. The finished product from writer/director Steven Kostanski (The Void) resembles a Troma movie, but a Troma movie with heart and soul that’s actually as fun as those movies want to be.
The film revolves around the bullheaded young Mimi (Nita-Josee Hanna) and her milquetoast, brow-beaten older brother, Luke (Owen Myre). While Luke digs his own grave—because he lost a bet to his sister and is to be buried alive, of course—they unearth a glowing pink gem. A glowing pink gem that allows them to control a nameless alien warlord (Matthew Ninaber), who they also unearth. He once led a violent revolt on his home planet, turned it into a global dictatorship, and was banished and imprisoned on Earth. Mimi dubs her new toy Psycho Goreman, PG for short, and makes him do her bidding. And it’s weirdly adorable.
If that plot sounds ridiculous, you have no idea what you’re in for. There are beheadings, kids swearing up a storm, a friend who gets turned into a giant brain, and all the goo and gross practical effects a horror fan can wish for. So often with movies of this ilk, those with a patently absurd premise driving the action, they run out of steam after the first act or so. They have a great idea, but not the ability to sustain it. Here, however, Kostanski manages to not only maintain the forward momentum, but, outside of a down spot here and there, continually cranks things up as the situation gets more and more out of control.
Psycho Goreman knows precisely what it is, what it wants to do, and has an absolute blast. It flaunts a crude, warped sense of humor (we all know kids swearing is inherently funny); insane alien creatures (one villain is essentially just a bucket of dismembered body parts who sprays a viscera slurry at his enemies); and wonderfully cheesy creature design pulled off with incredible practical effects. PG looks like a campy Creature from the Black Lagoon riff, and while he may be a guy in a rubber suit, it’s a fantastic, well-made rubber suit. The same goes for the cadre of other extraterrestrial visitors and their super creative character designs and costume executions.
Even as gloriously ludicrous as Psycho Goreman is from the get go, it packs in more emotional resonance than the name, premise, and general heresy belie. (Mimi snaps a crucifix over her knee at one point, among various other blasphemous flourishes.) Mimi and Luke have a violently antagonistic relationship, but while she bulldozes him at every turn, they also have a sweet, earnest bond. And both young actors not only sell their respective personalities, but their relationship—sure, siblings fight, maybe to the death on occasion, but they still love each other.
Though definitely an homage and loving send-up aimed at hitting a fun nostalgia spot, this is also the type of movie I would have loved as a kid. Obviously for the guts and gore and curse words, but not just that. The action centers the kids and allows them their moments. Kostanski’s script lets their personalities shine and gives them credit for being smart, tough, and capable—it doesn’t talk down to the young characters. In fact, their droll parents, especially their slacker dad, are much less functional and effective than their children. It’s all too rare for a movie centered on kids to respect and appreciate its protagonists in this fashion.
Psycho Goreman looked like a movie I was going to enjoy. And I obviously did, quite a bit, though not entirely for the expected reasons. Okay, definitely for those reasons, but so much more. Not only is it a reverent tribute to this style of schlocky, throwback horror/sci-fi cinema done to near perfection, it also has a wicked inventive streak, twisted sense of humor, and nuanced, well-developed characters with a heartfelt energy. And the whole thing wraps up with an end-credits rap that recounts the entire plot, the perfect cherry on top of one of the most entertaining movie sundaes you’ll find. [Grade: A-]