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Psycho Goreman
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by Jay Seaver

"Made of much better pieces than most horror-comedy throwbacks."
3 stars

Filmmaking collective Astron-6 went their separate ways a couple years ago, but promised they would each still be making a lot of the same sort of throwback comedy/horror and that they'd probably work together when there was a good fit. With "Psycho Goreman", Steve Kostanski captures a lot of the bloody 1980s-style fun of the old group, and if it seems to fare a little worse at straddling the line between doing a thing well and making jokes about that thing, I suppose that it's inevitable that this film might fall victim to accelerated nostalgia.

The film kicks off with siblings Mimi (Nita-Josee Hanna) and Luke (Owen Myre) playing a game of "crazyball" in their backyard, and while Mimi doesn't necessarily change the rules so she always wins, one gets the impression the pushy sister has never lost. This leads to Luke digging a hole in which to bury himself alive in the backyard, where they find a strange red crystal - and then, while they sleep, an alien monster emerges. Before he can start his reign of terror, though, it turns out that the crystal Mimi has taken for her own can control the one time universe-threatening despot she names "Psycho Goreman", and it's tough to know what is worse: A terror like Mimi having control of a cosmically-powered alien, or the fact that the galactic alliance which buried him here ages ago has no trouble with causing a lot of collateral damage on a backwater planet to keep him from re-emerging.

Lots of people love the R-rated genre movies of the 1980s, paying homage by using John Carpenter's favorite typeface, casting veterans of their favorites, or setting their films in that time which is conveniently free of mobile phones, but most of them are making pretty basic slashers, or doing a tongue-in-cheek take that highlights how cheap or absurd they seem thirty-odd years later. Kostanski and his compatriots, on the other hand, take their fandom a little more seriously and have the chops to make it work - though they may be young enough to have initially encountered films by the likes of Don Coscarelli on video, they know that this stuff had to look good on the big screen, and bust their butts to make everything from the title sequence to the miniature landscapes to the makeup look good. Even the stuff that's meant to look obviously fake or comedic seems to have a ton of clever mechanisms in its practical effects, and the music by Blitz//Berlin never works against what's on screen - that everybody involved seems to be taking things seriously only makes the jokes seem dryer and darker, and makes the foundation legitimately cool.

That's what Kostanski is getting out of his young stars, who set the tone for the whole movie. Mimi is often a headstrong and difficult-to-like kid, but Nita-Josee Hanna plays her in fearsomely straight-ahead fashion, making her the sort of kid who is compelling once you've got reason to find her more than abrasive because she's smart and focused in the way a precocious child is without being precious or wise beyond her years. There are at least half a dozen times when she says something completely ridiculous and the movie rolls on because of her confidence. It's no surprise that Owen Myre's Luke is so often bulldozed if not outright bullied, and if Myre has a little trouble holding his own with Hanna, it seldom feels like the actor is weak - Luke's his own person rather than just Mimi's punching bag. The adults play more conventionally dry, with Astron-6-er Adam Brooks as a comically ineffective father and Alexis Kara Hancey a compensatingly capable mom, while Matthew Ninaber (body language) and Steven Vlahos (voice) combine fairly seamlessly to make "PG" funny in how thwarted his grand ambitions are but still threatening when he needs to be.

Kostanski has all these terrific pieces and has a great time smashing them against each other - the action is bloody and not bad, considering it maintains some of the lumbering weight of its inspirations, and the film spends a lot more time with the grandiose flashbacks to PG's past than one might expect. There are nevertheless a lot of times when I couldn't help but remember that the Astron-6 movies were often better when played somewhat straight rather than entirely tongue-in-cheek. The bench beyond the central family isn't really deep enough to make any mayhem PG causes the combination of darkly funny and horrible the film is going for - it might have worked better if the council that condemned him to Earth had shown up there in the final act, both as satisfying story material and because they've got bigger and more fleshed out personalities than many of the rest of the foes. The idea of PG growing fond of Mimi undercuts the thread of Mimi potentially realizing what a monster she can be, which is what makes the movie feel like more than just style.

The style is pretty great, sure - Kostanski and his crew are good at this in a way that few others working at this scale manage to be - and the film itself certainly has more ambition than just splattery practical effects. It's good enough to make one wonder just how could it have been if it didn't take refuge in being a goof on the material..

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=34052&reviewer=371
originally posted: 03/04/21 20:53:19
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USA
  22-Jan-2021 (NR)
  DVD: 16-Feb-2021

UK
  N/A

Australia
  N/A (MA)
  DVD: 03-Mar-2021




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