A instant cult classic, Psycho Goreman is kitschy sci-fi horror that defies easy definition
Psycho Goreman is about as niche as a film can get. It’s a bizarre cocktail that mixes a low-budget 80s and 90s VHS aesthetic, the practical rubber suits and makeup of shows like Ultraman and Power Rangers, the offkilker comedy of a late-night Adult Swim sketch, and the hyper-violence of a Troma film.
Canadian film production company Astron-6 kind of has their own hold on this very specific market, specializing in practical creature effects, costumes, and splatter and gore effects that have a strong 80s influence. They’ve made films like Manborg, about a cybernetically-enhanced soldier fighting an army of Nazi vampires, Father’s Day, a pure Grindhouse revenge film, and The Void, a Lovecraftian creature feature. Steven Kostanski, who writes and directs many of the features, takes the tongue as far into the cheek as one can go with Psycho Goreman, but in a clever and weirdly sincere way.
The film centers on brother and sister Mimi (Nita-Josee Hanna) and Luke (Owen Myre). The two kids are playing a game of Crazy Ball, which is kind of like dodgeball but seems to have rules continuously being made up on the spot. Luke loses and has to dig a hole to be buried in, according to his brash and domineering sister. They stumble upon a glowing gem that awakens an ancient evil – an alien demon overlord that’s known throughout the cosmos as the Archduke of Nightmares. Played by Matthew Ninaber in an incredible monster suit and voiced by Steven Vlahos in a powerful, Lord Zedd-like performance, Psycho Goreman – as affectionately named by the siblings – was once on a quest to destroy the universe, only to be locked away by another alien race called the Templars.
The film is genuinely and admirably all-in with its science fantasy universe, setting a few scenes and flashbacks on alien worlds with different alien species – all done in a classic and practical way that’s ultimately so much more fun, interesting and pleasing to the eye than CG effects may have been. They truly just don’t make ‘em like this anymore, and the level of commitment to that kind of artistry – even though it’s for an increasingly silly movie – is truly a marvel.
But before PG can restart his conquest, Mimi realizes that as long as she’s got the gem in her hand, he has to do whatever she says. Naturally, a slew of childish hijinks ensue as Mimi and Luke take their new demonic supervillain out on the town. It’s here that the movie really begins to blend its bizarre influences – lame jokes that you’d normally see on a Nickelodeon or Disney Channel sitcom are combined with sudden bursts of darker humor, like when PG makes a child explode with his psychic abilities or how he horrifically unhinges his jaw Pennywise-style and devours a few enemies. The film is absurdly violent and usually at its funniest when it lets itself go wild with it.
But the weaker kiddie humor may just be self-aware; a commitment to the bit. Psycho Goreman plays like something you’d stumble upon in the back of an old video store, or at the bottom of the bargain bin, and I mean that in a complimentary way. It’s a movie that almost seems fake (truly, the best frame of reference would be a feature-length Adult Swim sketch) but miraculously exists. And thank goodness it does – it’s a film that truly has nothing else like it out there, is ridiculously fun, and only gets better the more time you have to think about it.
Trying to describe it will really do it no justice, this is really one you have to see for yourself. You’ll know pretty quickly whether you’re vibing with it or not, but you’re definitely missing out if you’re not. There’s blood, guts, battles, explosions, the fate of the universe hinges on a game made up by children, and that’s not even the tip of the iceberg. It’s destined for cult status, so why not hop on the train early?
Psycho Goreman is streaming on Shudder starting May 20th.