Feeling down and need a movie to put a smile on your face? May I recommend Steven Kostanski’s Psycho Goreman? It is a lore-heavy, anti-religion, sci-fi/dry comedy/musical/horror film complete with its own intergalactic heavy metal dodgeball scene—in short, it is the perfect movie to watch when you need to forget about your woes and envelop yourself in the comfort of B-horror schlock.
Psycho Goreman opens not unlike a Star Wars movie, with bright text on a dark background providing a quick synopsis to get viewers up to speed. Here, there is no story of space priests, but of one vile figure known as the Archduke of Nightmares, who terrorized the planet Gigax with his immense and horrific power. The supposed forces of good banded together and defeated him, banishing him to a planet far away.
Cut from the dramatic music to a mud-filled backyard on Earth where siblings Mimi (Nita-Josee Hanna) and Luke (Owen Myre) discover an ancient amulet while playing Crazyball (think dodgeball but with more rules). They mistakenly resurrect the Archduke, who wishes to kill everything and everyone. But that doesn’t bother Mimi. In fact, and much to his dismay, Mimi sees him as a new cool buddy. After a quick brainstorm session, the Archduke of Nightmares is now Psycho Goreman (Matthew Ninaber), or PG for short. PG learns to love and discovers a possible interest in hunky boys, a divided family is reunited, a young girl learns her lesson and a lot of heads explode.
What makes Psycho Goreman so effective is its lightning-fast changes of pace, moving from intense sci-fi to dry comedy so quickly that you get whiplash. PG’s somber flashbacks to his home planet grind to a halt as Mimi loudly declares she’s bored. None of this film is meant to be taken seriously, so drama is quickly undercut with a snide remark to bring everything back to Earth. The dramatic rug is quickly pulled out from under you, making you land on your cinematic ass with a smile on your face. Melding two emotionally extreme genres with two extreme stories about alien societies and suburban family dysfunction, writer/director Kostanski makes a film full of heart (both literally and figuratively).
Much of the heart comes from the relationship between Mimi and PG, a match made in Hell. While PG wants to annihilate the universe, Mimi wants to annihilate those who stand in her way. Even in pigtails and iridescent rain boots, Mimi is an ‘80s action star crammed into a young girl’s body, screaming insults and threatening violence at the weak—usually her brother. She knows what she wants, she isn’t scared of anything and she is giving a destroyer of worlds a run for his money. Hanna’s performance is hysterical but the novelty wears off fast as her insults start to generate eye rolls instead of laughter. Yes, she is a comical villain in contrast with the sword-wielding alien assassins from a faraway planet, but she unfortunately becomes more of an annoying little sister that you want to banish from your room.
Paired with the film’s writing are jaw-droppingly impressive practical effects and creature design that give Psycho Goreman its science-fiction depth. This is not just about one alien regaling humans with his exploits, but an entire pantheon of creatures that are meticulously designed. These are effects worthy of any big budget sci-fi, yet here they are used to stand in stark contrast with the seemingly simple lives on Earth. It would seem ridiculous to invest so many resources into a film that is primarily an outrageous comedy, but for Kostanski, this is par for the course.
Kostanski has built his career around such a dedication to practical effects, seen in his work with Canadian production company Astron-6 and films like The Void. He and his team are able to work absolute movie magic with every project, building intricate worlds with latex and blood. But Psycho Goreman is his magnum opus, a glorious love letter to gory monster movies of the ‘80s. Kostanski constructs a mythos to make Psycho Goreman more than just a violent figure, but a sympathetic vigilante trying to save his people. These detailed designs are reminiscent of the Mos Eisley cantina in Star Wars; no matter how long an alien character is on screen, they are meticulously crafted as if they are the main character.
Psycho Goreman is a necessary explosion of ridiculous fun in a time when it’s needed most. Fans of practical effects and over-the-top horror-comedy will instantly fall in love. It is a children’s cartoon given a gory makeover, appealing to the sugar-cereal-addicted kid that exists inside of us all. The extreme tonal shifts from hard sci-fi to family comedy will be weird for some, but Kostanski never hides what this film is: Ridiculous. It may be a matter of taste, but if you can’t stop smiling at the idea of a mid-film musical number where an alien plays the drums, this is a film for you.
Director: Steven Kostanski
Writers: Steven Kostanski
Starring: Matthew Ninaber, Kristen MacCulloch, Rick Amsbury
Release Date: January 22, 2021 (Digital and Limited Theatrical)
Mary Beth McAndrews is a freelance film journalist with a love of all things horror. She’s written across the Internet about found footage, extreme horror cinema, and more. You can follow her on Twitter to read more of her work, as well as her hot takes about her favorite cryptid, Mothman.