Psycho Goreman (Review)

Horror-comedy Psycho Goreman is exactly the kind of film you expect from something called Pscyho Goreman. The title is a wonderful litmus test: if you hear it and want to watch it, it will scratch the itch you’re looking for; if you are the kind of strange being not excited by a film called Psycho Goreman? Well, prepare to not like Psycho Goreman.

Though it is sprinkled with fun moments, the appeal of Psycho Goreman is its aesthetic. This comes from one of the directors of The Void, Steven Kostanski, and it has a wide assortment of wonderful practical effects. The tone, and consistent irreverence, really helps it in this regard. The film is not as strong as The Void but it also does not take itself seriously at all, which The Void did. That film had a strong aesthetic, and terrific practical effects in service of that; this is unchained from that sensibility and instead has an aesthetic that is just: cool stuff. This film is entirely aimed at people who grew up on Saturday morning cartoons in the 80s and also love body horror. It has overt Dungeons and Dragons references; a pastiche of a Star Wars scene; musical numbers and eclectic imagery that runs the gambit from heavy metal album cover to children’s cereal box. And you know what? It works. This is a dumb cartoon come to life complete with cartoony action and enough life affirming messages (that always stay tongue in cheek) to get you by. To be ultra specific, it actually feels like a spiritual successor to Kostanski’s conceptually promising, but not very good, short, Fantasy Beyond.

The narrative? Primarily an excuse for gore and gags but compelling enough. A brother and sister are playing in the yard, a well captured childish game with unclear rules, and then end up uncovering an alien artefact. This leads them to the titular Psycho Goreman, an evil alien that they name. He is unleashing evil on earth and has come to destroy us all. He is very cenobite-esque in look, a classic horror monster. Fortunately, the sister, Mimi (Nita-Jose Hanna, who gives a – let’s say – spirited performance), can control Psycho Goreman with the artefact and, from that, we have an odd-couple buddy movie. The film is pretty much based around answering the question, a question I am sure we’ve all had, what if two teens had a pet Pinhead? 

Controlling an evil monster who does not want to be controlled leads to goofy hijinks, the core joke being teenage thing juxtaposed against evil monster thing. It is a central gag that is well played, with some nods to the dynamic from T2: Judgment day. The best parts, though, are the windows into the wider world.

This film does not have a coherent universe, but it does have a fun one. We see planetary conferences and multiple factions getting involved with our overarching story. People in space are hunting down Psycho Goreman, to make him face justice for his crimes. It is an excuse to have a lot of wacky creature designs and set designs, and they are wonderful. A real highlight is an exposed brain-man-thing in a jar on a robot body called Tubeman (voiced by Stuart Wellington from the Flop House podcast, one of my favourite podcasts). In actuality, though the stranger in a strange land horror comedy stuff is fun, it is all very expected and merely delivers just well enough (at points it bubbles over into annoying, though it does shine in other places). The film could have leant into its wider world better, leveraging these creature designs and plot points as, fundamentally, they feel like a wasted opportunity. Some things are set up that are not paid off at all and the creative scope of these sequences is more interesting than the modest scope of the film. Though, we do get some great, and very squishy, action moments when the two plot lines converge.

Another oddly effective element is the family dynamics. The characters are well drawn – in a broad caricature kind of way – that is endearing and fits the film. It plays with tropes nicely and there is a surprisingly elegant structure regarding character arcs. They set up ideas nicely and pay them off well: twisting some allegiances around and crafting some smart comeuppance moments. There is some light factionalism at the end, within the family, that feels well earned. The mum and dad are well used, the dad being utterly useless in a way the film mines humour out of before completing the circle by making it clear that his uselessness is a problem. It is a smart enough example of keeping the tone irreverent while also having something of a moral backbone.

And that’s the film, really. It is well meaning and well implemented. Nothing about it is particularly special – apart from some of the creature designs – but it is enjoyably competent. Yes, it is full of cliche and it does get annoying at parts, and most of it will exit the brain as quickly as it enters. But, it knows exactly what it is; it knows who exactly it is speaking to and it speaks to them with real confidence and with a fair dose of style. It is not just another 80s nostalgia grab, it will challenge and flip a few things and pulls from some aesthetic places that other, similar films do not. The key differentiating factor from this and other 80s inspired media, which so often falls flat for me, is that it is totally aware that it is pulling from things that are dumb. This does not deify pop-culture and does not rely on references. This is a decently paced slice of dumb-fun with some outlandish gore that will make you want to rewind and rewatch. It is precisely nothing more than this, and somewhat only just does enough to get by, but you will see some great looking stuff and have a good amount of fun. At points, there are clear signs that it could have been more, but what you get is certainly satisfying.

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