Here’s another release from Shudder that’s seemingly trying to engineer a cult audience straight out of the gates. Those who seek cult status may not be destined to achieve it however, especially given it’s a somewhat nebulous concept to pin down in itself. But there is certainly pedigree behind this lunatic mashup of kids’ adventure and grindhouse splatterfest. And with a heart as big as its production values are small, the irresistibly titled Psycho Goreman may well click with its target audience.
Oddball brother and sister Luke and Mimi (Owen Myre and Nita-Josee Hanna) discover a mysterious gem buried in this back garden. This frees a demonic monster known as the Archduke of Nightmares, a planet-destroying alien who had been captured and imprisoned by a military caste of intergalactic warriors known as the Templars. To the delight of budding sociopath Mimi, possession of the gem grants the bearer control over the Archduke, quickly rechristened Psycho Goreman (“PG for short!”). The siblings remain oblivious to the constant threats of unspeakable violence from PG, even when he turns Mimi’s favourite ‘hunky boy’ Alasdair (Scout Flint) into a giant, ambulatory brain. They’re just glad to have a weird, new friend to order around. Meanwhile, robot Templar Pandora (Kristen MacCulloch) arrives on Earth to recapture the escapee.
Writer and director Kostanski previously made his name with squishy Lovecraftian horror The Void, which greatly impressed on a small budget. Psycho Goreman is just as accomplished in its own way while operating on a very different register. There is a goofy, tactile delight in the array of purposely fake, rubbery aliens dreamed up by the character design and makeup department. Psycho Goreman himself is Sauron on a Power Rangers budget; a feared megalomaniac with the ruthless disdain for life of Priti Patel, but the apparent physical threat of Mr Blobby. He’s the film in a nutshell. Half the fun is in the way Kostanski takes the mythology and pomposity of classic space opera and hammers it into a Troma-shaped hole.
Silliness, disposability, and familiarity is baked into the concept, so when a gag doesn’t quite hit the spot, or a performance falls a little flat, it picks itself up and careens off on another aspartame-addled tangent. Pulling at loose threads and picking it apart is fairly futile. If you’re not on board with the premise to begin with, there will be little to change your mind. It casually pokes fun at the Amblin era of family fare like E.T. and Flight of the Navigator, and the wholesome life lessons contained within, throughout its runtime. Psycho Goreman practically dares you to actually learn something as it goes about its studiedly stupid business. That said, young Nita-Josee Hanna’s ultra commitment to brattishness as Mimi results in a performance that is either completely dreadful, or with a knowledge of the delicate art of scenery chewing far beyond her tender years. You wouldn’t object to PG getting his murderous hands on her, and with it being the kind of film it is, there are several moments where you can’t entirely rule it out. And it has to be stated that the Billy Idol parody musical number goes a little too far.
Psycho Goreman is clearly a one-joke high concept stretched to feature length, but one stuffed with reverence for the disparate elements welds together in its haphazard, cut-and-shut, Frankenstein form. It’s essentially a kids’ film that is completely unsuitable for kids. So kids will undoubtedly love it, while veteran gore lovers will watch misty-eyed, wishing that something like it existed back in the days when their formative interest was fuelled by illicit midnight viewings while parents slept. It would be wrong to use the word wholesome, but it really is fun for all the family, in its own sick little way.
Available on Shudder from Thu May 20 2021