A manifestation of video store dreams and midnight cult movie wishes, Psycho Goreman is a practical effects showpiece that balks at any made up idea of “elevated horror” and brings genre back to the gutter for some bloody good fun. Built on the back of accumulated pop culture, from shlock-driven horror to Tokusatsu creations from Japan, the film runs the gamut of specialized interests. If you have a sugar tooth for an off-kilter brand of Saturday Morning Horror, there’s simply no better option in the game. Psycho Goreman is the genuine article, a riotous shot of pure adrenaline to the nostalgic center of your heart.
The film is an astounding tribute to an entire history of special effects and makeup artists at the movies. Bring a bucket and collect all its references, as they are frenzied and unending. Scenes will slide between all manner of genre throwbacks to films both imminently respected and ones that far outreach the public consciousness. The film damn near demands a midnight showing at a small theater with a likeminded audience. If that will not suffice this year, it remains a vital option on Shudder, for both gore-hounds and cheese-heads alike. Crucially, Steven Kostanski pulls from years of experience doing makeup and effects for genre pictures. This is the culmination of a lifetime of interests and invested energy, a product of pulsating passion and respect for everything that has come before it — horror as a celebration of itself.
After years of enslavement on his home planet, Gigax, the titular Psycho Goreman (“PG for short”), has broken free from the shackles of his oppression, bonded to a small gem that provides unlimited power for his unrelenting bloodlust. He’s crash landed on Earth to collect a squad of fellow bad dudes to take down his former captors. There’s one problem for the “Arch-Duke of Nightmares.” Whoever holds the gem is given complete control of his awesome powers and the gem has been found by a precocious young girl and her whiny brother. Thus begins the hilarity of a classical kind of genre film — kids stumble upon remarkable, unknown powers, and harness them to save the world, while causing wanton and irresponsible destruction in their wake.
Full credit goes to young actor Nita-Josee Hanna, who plays Mimi, effectively PG’s new master. Not only does she have a ton of fun in the role but she’s able to play into Kostanski’s entire imagined universe of pop-culture ephemera. It’s readily apparent that if a young actor can properly handle this level of shlocky performance, requiring so many different modes, and means of sardonic expressions, there is not much of a ceiling on what she can do. Her pairing with this wonderfully designed grotesque of a creature is so well-expressed and always a joy to watch. Due credit goes to Owen Myre as her brother and Adam Brooks as an excellent punching bag of a deadbeat Dad.
The film is more than its horror components. It’s prone, at any moment, to go full Power Rangers (this critic was an early hipster and watched VR Troopers instead). When Goreman’s enemies come to Earth, there are fantastical battle sequences. His enemies can be literal buckets of brains or varied comic book villains right out of the Super Sentai playbook. The action is well considered, always focused on what can be achieved with the film’s tight budgetary limitations and expert use of special effects. The feeling is that every baddie and horror scenario are great excuses for the team to go all-out creatively of the most effective kind. It’s that homespun ingenuity at the center of every decision in the film that makes Psycho Goreman a resounding success.
There are a few moments of joyful humor that spotlight exactly the kind of absurdist fun that the movie very consistently achieves. In the funniest moment of the film, the kids bring PG a series of magazines, and he realizes he’s very much a fan of Hunky Boys — in his booming, evil voice, “Psycho Goreman doesn’t like Hunky Boys… or do I?” He later loses his shit when the magazine is destroyed. There’s also a neighborhood kid called Alistair. When Mimi becomes annoyed that he’s just not the playmate she always imagined, she commands Goreman to turn him into the perfect playmate. Tragically and hilariously, he turns the kid into a giant brain creature. Another great moment finds PG taking command of a police officer, who is so horrified by these events, he tries helplessly to shoot himself in the head, and it just doesn’t end his suffering. For Goreman, bringing others into suspended states of endless dread is the best kind of revenge.
It’s rare to find a horror film bursting at the seams with unrivaled creative energy. Pulling from a plethora of nostalgic reference points, Kostanski leverages his experience to create a masterful practical effects showcase. What the film is able to achieve, with incredibly talented makeup artists and true craftsmen behind the scenes, is a remarkable visual achievement. Not only should we celebrate this work when it’s done naturally — and not on computers — but we should put it on a pedestal, and exclaim, this is something tangibly more valuable than the alternative. Psycho Goreman is a superbly crafted work of genre filmmaking, one of the best of its kind, and a film that affectionally celebrates our history of horror.