Most filmmakers feel content working within easily identifiable genres, but some prefer to color outside the lines. Steven Kostanski’s latest feature sees him move wildly, ridiculously, and smoothly into that latter group as he delivers a fun family film overflowing with blood, body parts, and angry puppets. Imagine Harry and the Hendersons but with ol’ bigfoot wanting to terror those precocious little kids limb from limb, and then say hello to Psycho Goreman.
Mimi (Nita-Josee Hanna) and her slightly older brother Luke (Owen Myre) are tight and do most everything together, and it’s due as much to a desire to avoid their feuding parents as it is to Mimi’s iron-fisted grip and forceful insistence. Their latest round of Crazy Ball, a dodgeball variant built on a mesmerizing layer of rules, is followed by their discovery of an ancient-looking gem. Mimi takes possession of it, obviously, and the pair soon discovers that it comes with a surprise. Removing it from the ground has released an intergalactic demigod known as the Archduke of Nightmare but named Psycho Goreman (Matthew Nineber) by the kids — and he’s obligated to obey whoever possesses the gem. Luke’s scared, but for his sister this is most definitely “Mimi’s time to shine.”
Movies like E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial (1982) and Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991) have found humor in children befriending some kind of otherworldly presence and trying to teach them how to behave, but Psycho Goreman ups the ante in various ways. Not only is this being capable of mutilating muggers, blowing up annoying little girls, and turning one poor kid into a chair-sized brain with eyes and tendrils — all of which he does, by the way — but the kid in control is absolutely in support of it all. That the film delivers its gory, practical effect-filled antics alongside a message about the importance of family and responsibility is just icing on an already highly entertaining and memorable cake.
Kostanski’s no stranger to the pure pleasures of practical gore, monstrous creatures, and copious amounts of blood, and his filmography shows him doing everything from visual effects and editing to writing and directing. As a member of Canada’s greatest export, the Astron-6 gang, he’s also been an integral part of some bonkers gems including Father’s Day (2011) and The Editor (2014). His most recent directorial efforts include the serious Lovecraftian descent into The Void (2016) and the less memorable Leprechaun Returns (2018), but Psycho Goreman brings him back with a banger.
Like an R-rated riff on the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, the film finds unabashed joy in its use of puppetry and performers in creature suits. While Psycho Goreman, “PG for short,” is embroiled in earthly hijinks, various alien species dispatch a team to either kill or rescue him. Their members are a wonderfully fun and creative blend of creature designs and rubbery goodness, and once they reach Earth the aliens engage in numerous brawls, battles, and beatdowns. It’s low budget but high concept with imagination to spare, but while all of that is entertaining enough the film’s secret weapon is its miniature tyrant, Mimi.
She’s an absolute terror and arguably more frightening than the monster they’ve befriended, but… she’s also kind of amazing? Hanna plays her with equal parts brattiness, bitchiness, and badassery, and while your first instinct will be to hate her the little weirdo can’t help but grow on you. She thrives on the power and uses to punish and threaten both strangers and family alike, but girls just wanna have fun, man. She even headlines a music montage of fun with PG set to her own song, “I’m the Heckin’ Best.” This is what joy looks like.
Both Mimi and PG are monsters, and both have an arc towards a certain degree of kindness and compassion — and neither is about to walk that road without a fight. This thread of morality offers a bit of warmth into the family dynamic as her parents (Adam Brooks, Alexis Kara Hancey) have their own struggles to deal with, and while PG is far from giving up his nightmarish ways he too finds growth in his own self-awareness ranging from enjoying these new friends to wondering if he, indeed, is a fan of “hunky boys.”
Psycho Goreman is an absolute romp fueled as much by blood, latex, and laughs as it is by a callback to playful, pre-CG innocence. It’s unapologetically silly and endlessly fun, and I say this with the utmost sincerity — you yourself are the monster if you’re incapable of loving this glorious madness.