2021 Film Reviews

Review: Steven Kostanski’s ‘Psycho Goreman’

Psycho Goreman Movie Film

With a title like Psycho Goreman, it’s safe to assume that the filmmakers aren’t aiming for their work to be deemed “elevated horror” (pfft). And thank the dark lord for that, because despite how fantastic movies such as The Witch, Get Out and Midsommar are, and what they mean for the growth of the genre, there’s still plenty of room for some good old fashioned splattery fun, too — horror fans tend to take ourselves a bit too seriously at times, so we’d do well to remember that. 

Kicking off with a low-rent Star Wars crawl presented in blood red (of course), Psycho Goreman immediately establishes its vibe. The titular character, reputedly the source of the greatest evil in the universe, comes from the planet Gigax — likely a reference to Dungeons & Dragons creator Gary Gygax — and is out to destroy everything in his path. Thankfully, he’s been banished to Earth where Psycho Goreman, or Psycho Gorman if you’re Irish, has been safely entombed for years. 

Unfortunately, a couple of precocious kids wake Psycho Goreman up midway through a rousing game of Crazy Ball (too complicated to explain, by design). After stumbling upon a precious gemstone — the source of the creature’s power — mini-terror Mimi (Nita-Josee Hanna) and her long-suffering brother Luke (Owen Myre) set about making “PG” their personal plaything. This does not go down well with the supremely evil being, whose sole purpose in life is to cause others pain. 

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Psycho Goreman Movie Film

It’s a wickedly funny setup, and to writer-director Steven Kostanski’s (The Void) great credit, Psycho Goreman doesn’t even venture in the vicinity of the expected. If anything, rather than having PG wreak havoc on the kids’ small suburban town, Kostanski narrows the focus on the trio, so it’s actually Mimi who emerges as the real troublemaker. Hanna has a terrific plasticine face that the young actress utilizes to hilarious effect whenever the camera is anywhere near her, emphasizing Mimi’s manic energy.

As strange as it might sound, the fact the younger sister is not just the protagonist but also a flawed, difficult character is a step forward for representation. Women are rarely allowed to play genuinely bad people without being punished or finding the light through the persecution of male characters, but, for most of Psycho Goreman, Mimi is given free rein to be a complete brat. Hanna plays it brilliantly, and Kostanski deserves major kudos for his direction.

The fractious brother-sister bond is the heart of Psycho Goreman, but Kostanski has plenty of time for familial love and friendship, too. His movie is surprisingly soft-hearted, despite the actual desecrated organs and other body parts scattered throughout. It’s the perfect mixture of sweet and salty, fattened up by Kostanski’s own charmingly sarky script — when Luke asks his father whether monsters are real, he pauses before answering, “Humans are the real monsters…so I’d say yes.” 

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Psycho Goreman Movie Film

The family rapport is instantly believable, from the gentle ribbing shared by the foursome to their secret knocking language. PG becomes an honorary member in a way, particularly when he’s gussied up like Alan Grant in Jurassic Park after a trip to goodwill (a genuinely brilliant sight gag). PG’s design is super cool, from the timber of his voice to the wetsuit look of his body, all aglow with pink, green and purple accents, to the nasty spikes and gooiness that ensure the alien always looks ready to kill.  

The makeup and prosthetics work are exemplary — they truly don’t make ‘em like this anymore — and Kostanski wisely shoots much of the action in daylight, to give the audience a good look at everything. Models are utilized for PG’s alien homeland alongside stop motion animation, which is sprinkled liberally throughout, to charming effect. The alien designs are particularly great, resembling Gwar’s stage attire, even if the actors find it hard to deliver lines under layers of latex. 

Psycho Goreman is goofier than The Void, but the two films share a similar dark energy and old school charm. The time period is unclear, with several details placing the setting in the 80s while others suggest much later. A metal AF soundtrack splices in creepy retro-wave music, plenty of synth and then shockwaves of thrashing guitar licks to gnarly effect. Like the onscreen band manned by the kids and PG, it’s a lot of different noises that shouldn’t work together but totally do. 

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Psycho Goreman Movie Film

As the voice of the bloodthirsty creature, Steven Vlahos makes a huge impression. His dispossessed delivery is everything, whether PG is bemoaning the destruction of a man being kept alive purely for his own amusement — “he was my masterpiece!” — or informing a kid that meeting him would be better if he were dead. No wonder Tumblr is already awash with gifs of PG; he’s a cult icon in the making, equal parts sturdy, robotic physicality (Matthew Ninaber) and monotone moaning (Vlahos). 

Throughout Psycho Goreman, characters in various states of putrefaction are played for dark laughs. A melting cop with a gun attached to his hand, who keeps trying to kill himself, is hilarious even if you feel slightly bad for the guy. The remarkable practical effects somehow look even more impressive in daylight, with a sentient brain wobbling about and giving a serious air of “how did they do that?” magic. Likewise, demonic hands coming out of cookies to attack are horrifyingly effective. 

PG’s own powers are terrific too, with the so-called “warrior’s death” featured twice because it’s just that soul-destroying and incredibly done. A lot of heart went into this movie, and it’s splattered all over the screen for the audience’s enjoyment, but while the monster himself is a genius creation, the human characters are equally strong and compelling. Even Mimi, the little nightmare, is difficult not to root for. Her family might be dysfunctional, but that’s exactly why PG fits in so well with them. 

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Psycho Goreman Movie Film

Psycho Goreman is delightfully dark, whimsical, charming and frequently laugh-out-loud funny. In true old school horror style, a rap about the movie plays over the end credits, reminding viewers yet again that they don’t make ‘em like this anymore. Thankfully, we still have Psycho Goreman — and for that, we salute him. 

Joey Keogh (@JoeyLDG) is a writer from Dublin, Ireland with an unhealthy appetite for horror movies and Judge Judy. In stark contrast with every other Irish person ever, she’s straight edge. Hello to Jason Isaacs.

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