Psycho Goreman (2020)
Written & Directed by Steven Kostanski
1980s/90s nostalgia is running rampant in popular culture. Whether its new streaming series that evoke the mood of the period or new versions of classic action figures released into the wild or reboots of franchises that are beloved, America just cannot get enough of crawling into a cocoon of childhood memories instead of confronting that ever-present horror of this moment in time. Psycho Goreman is a violent beating from the past, refusing to allow things to be so fuzzy and friendly. Instead, we get the bloody horrifying Saturday morning cartoon we all sort of really dreamt about, a hilarious and absurdist take on the Power Rangers, E.T., and many other corporate childhood darlings.
Luke and his sister Mimi are playing a round of Crazyball, a game of their own invention. She wins, and the stakes are that Luke will be buried alive. That night, after digging his own grave, the two kids discover a glowing stone embedded in the ground. Mimi snatches it, and they are both called in for dinner. Overnight, a monstrous creature emerges from the ground and kills some local thieves. When Luke and Mimi cross paths with this being, Mimi discovers he must obey her commands as long as she holds onto the control gem. This is when the trio embarks on a radical adventure of friendship and not taking shit from anyone. However, the alien collective, who initially imprisoned the now nicknamed Psycho Goreman, is aware he is free, so they send their angel of death, Pandora, to deal with him.
This movie is hilarious, but very little actually happens for most of its runtime, and that’s the part that frustrated me. We’re constantly fed build-up, but little actual conflict occurs. I think some more action set pieces would have helped the film’s energy not feel like it had lulls, but that said, I laughed my ass off watching this movie. Apparently, there’s a contingent online who saw this movie and does not like the performance of Nita-Josee Hanna as Mimi, finding her annoying. She is, in fact, the best thing about the film, basically a live-action female Cartman, just a nasty little shit who has no empathy for others. She juxtaposed against Luke, who is the most pathetic simp you’ll see, and that dynamic between an older brother and his little sister was just so genuinely funny to me.
The performances of the voice actor and man in the suit as Psycho Goreman are also great. There’s a moment where Mimi is leaving him to sleep in an old warehouse at night. She’s brought him a television and some teen dream-type magazines. To the magazines, PG asks what their purpose is, and Mimi tells him they are for looking at hunky boys. PG responds indignantly, “I do not care for hunky boys!…or do I?” This is paid off later when an antagonist damages these same magazines and our overly violent hero strikes back on behalf of the “hunky boys.”
I get the sense that even the filmmakers knew the movie didn’t have much meat on its bones as there are multiple jokes about the meandering feel of the film. PG meets Luke in his dream mind, and after talking about how to overtake Mimi, Luke asks, “What happens now?” PG responds they just have to wait for Luke’s dream to finish up. Those jokes begin to wear thin the further into the film we get. There’s a sense of peaks and valleys while you watch, some moments are charged with wonderfully dark humor, and then others, it’s spinning its wheels being “random.” The movie has just enough great bits that after you find yourself drifting away, it will pull you back in. The kids’ dad (Adam Brooks) receives a distress call from PG while he’s on the toilet at one point, and it’s just such a silly over-the-top scene it had me laughing hard.
I think with a more tightly paced script, this could have been something absolutely spectacular. As it is, I think Psycho Goreman is an excellent watch for both genuinely nostalgic people and those who might be tired of the proliferation of ‘member berries’ in American culture at the moment. The filmmakers are incredibly talented at evoking familiar aesthetics and highly creative with the character designs and gruesome deaths & dismemberments that abound. If you are a fan of horror/comedies, Psycho Goreman is just waiting for you to give it a watch.