Ever wonder what twisted thoughts lurk in the darkest corners of Canada? If you figured it included Saturday morning Sentai shows, troubling family dynamics, and aliens potentially questioning their sexuality, then you know a lot more about Canada than I do. And you’d also somehow be right, which just makes this weirder.
After deftly crushing her brother in a game of “Crazy Ball,” which just makes me think of Calvin Ball from the comic strip Calvin & Hobbes, little girl Mimi discovers and claims a strange gem buried in her backyard. Unfortunately, this gem keeps an ancient and nameless alien warlord imprisoned on the backwater planet of Earth. It also bestows the ability to control said alien. Naming him Psycho Goreman, or PG for short, Mimi decides to show off her new hyper violent extraterrestrial toy…and then the rest of the universe notices. Queue more aliens showing up in corny costumes to engage in sometimes absurdly bloody and gory battles, complete with sparks and all the silliness of Japanese shows brought over to North America and horribly mangled, like Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers, Big Bad Beetleborgs, and VR Troopers.
Yeah, the PG nickname is a joke, because this has the hallmarks of a 1980s kids movie: arguing siblings, the collapse of the nuclear family, materialism, a punkish attitude of anti-authority, and questionable levels of violence. Psycho Goreman fits right in with such films as The Monster Squad and The Gate, only with a bit more influence from the 1990s kids television shows I already mentioned. Overwrought dialogue abounds, monsters move in weird and exaggerated fashion, and one alien critter even speaks entirely in Japanese. And then you get the blood sprays and people being splattered or popped (if they’re lucky enough to die), which at times comes across as, dare I say, heartwarming?
Of course it’s a low budget affair, but that actually helps sell the relationship to those same influences. Nobody ever faulted something like Masked Rider for having too much money, you know? But those aren’t the only areas where it wears its influences on its sleeve. Our dear alien warlord PG comes from the planet Gygax, as in Gary Gygax, co-creator of Dungeons & Dragons, founder of TSR, and overall tabletop gaming legend. Certain aliens give off a Star Wars vibe as they sit in their council and talk about the threat that PG represents to the galaxy. And one poor cop gets mutated in a cross between the flesh gun sequence of David Cronenberg’s Videodrome and that one poor bad guy who gets melted in toxic waste in Robocop before getting splattered all over a windshield.
All of this comes from the crazy mind of Steven Kostanski, a special effects artist-turned-director who has put out such films as Manborg, The Void, and Leprechaun Returns. Kostanski is one of the main forces behind the Astron-6 production company, and he understands how to build and use effects work cheaply and concisely. He also wears his love for 1980s cinema on his sleeve, as do all of the Astron-6 members, and the group’s repertoire has included a wild variety of throwback films that I have largely enjoyed. If anyone can work around a small budget to bring to life such a creation, it’s these folks, and I am eagerly looking forward to whatever else Kostanski decides to set his mind to.
I was also pleasantly surprised in how much I enjoy the children characters despite that they were meant to harbor some blatantly negative personal traits. Mimi, the little girl of the poster played perfectly by Nita-Josee Hanna in her film debut, is a full blown sociopath. I don’t mean this like “yeah, that kid’s a little selfish,” I mean she is violent, threatens death and destruction at the drop of a hat, and even declares herself the new God at one point after talking shit to a crucifix, which she then promptly snaps in half. Meanwhile, her brother, Luke, is entirely the opposite: soft spoken, born to follow, largely directed by others around him. While he does eventually stand up for himself, he still is second string to Mimi’s antics and knows it. PG doesn’t even bother learning his name and simply refers to him as “boy” throughout the film. And then we have Alistair, Luke’s best friend and Mimi’s crush, whose fate…well, some secrets are best learned by watching the movie, which I highly suggest you do.
The adult parents are also a nice break from the stereotype of the businessman or alpha dad and the tough but understanding homemaker mom that tend to predominate in the reference shows. Instead, we have a deadbeat father whose biggest contribution is giving terrible life lessons and an overworked mother who is finally fed up with his crap. I’m sure they’d get divorced if they could, but instead how does it sound to turn into a robot space monster and play your spouse in a children’s made up ballgame? Sound good? Great, you’re gonna love this movie.
Psycho Goreman is a lot of fun, such as when it launches into a song and montage for the children’s punk band, a little ditty with the surprisingly catchy title “Frig Off.” It’s consistent in its mayhem, such as the rules to Crazy Ball. It takes some great jokes and subtle foreshadowing and gives great pay off. The one area where it falls a little flat is in the believability of its adults, particularly the ineffectual and worthless police and its stereotypical criminals, who exist solely to show off PG’s terrible powers. These folks are all side characters at best (and little more than background at worst), so for them to falter isn’t a major issue, but it does serve as a distraction from the bloody fun and Saturday morning attitude of the rest of the flick.
And that in-your-face attitude is what this is all about, and what you should really focus on. If you can connect with what Kostanski is offering, you will find greatness in Psycho Goreman‘s sense of humor and moments of hyper violence. If you don’t, well, you’re probably not going to have as good a time. Just expect the kids to be annoying, the fights to be cheesy, and the dialogue to be over the top, just like it should be. And expect it to be low budget and rough around the edges. But accept that and give in to Kostanski’s imagination, and you’re sure to have a fantastic time. I did.
Now as for whether I like this one more than The Void…that’s a tough question. I had more fun with Psycho Goreman, but The Void is mind blowing weird. Hell, go watch both.