One of the year’s most enjoyable horror comedies takes the unexpected form of a 90s throwback in PG: Psycho Goreman.
Let’s bitch it out…
PG: Psycho Goreman is about a ruthless world-destroying monster (played by Matt Ninabar and voiced by Steven Vlahos) who comes to earth to recover a powerful crystal. When the gem is instead discovered by Mimi (Nita-Jossee Hanna), a precocious ten year old girl, she discovers that she has the ability to control his actions. Much to her brother Luke (Owen Myre)’s chagrin, having an all-powerful creature at her disposal only makes Mimi more sadistic, which ultimately causes a rift in the family, particularly between their tightly wound mother Susan (Alexis Hancey) and their slacker father (Adam Brooks).
Oh, and there’s also a head hunter from the “Planetary Alliance” named Pandora (Kristen MacCulloch) who is on a mission to kill Psycho Goreman before he can regain the gem and destroy everything, including earth.
Writer/director Steven Kostanski (Leprechaun Returns, The Void) is clearly having an absolute (crazy) ball with his latest feature, which expertly mixes horror, comedy and gross-out gore in equal measure. The plot of Psycho Goreman is completely ludicrous and the visual aesthetic is campy and low budget in an earnest, endearing way.
The film pays homage to a host of other horror films that Kostanski loves and/or grew up and this translates principally in the exquisite low-fi creature design and costuming, particularly the Planetary Alliance, PG’s former crew the Paladins of Obsidian and even poor Alastair (Scout Flint), a friend of Mimi and Luke’s who is turned into a giant brain.
There’s a schlocky, hand-crafted foam and latex look to all of these creatures (think Power Rangers and Super Sentai) that is instantly loveable. Kostanski isn’t trying to cover up his miniscule budget; if anything, he’s leaning into it while also evoking other iconic texts. The result is a film that invites the audience in on the joke.
This is vital because Psycho Goreman is a deliberately ridiculous film. It’s mythology doesn’t completely track, several character arcs feel incomplete (particularly the one involving Greg and Susan’s marriage of inequity) and events seemingly occur at random…but very little of that matters because it is just so much damn fun. The jokes fly fast and furious; the characters, especially Mimi and Psycho Goreman, are fantastically portrayed; plus the gore is egregious in all the right ways (let’s just say that people explode…often).
One particularly memorable sequence is Kostanski’s late 80s/early 90s montage where Mimi, Luke and the family start a band, go shopping and generally cause chaos around town. It is a perfect synthesis of the film’s penchant for fun adventures, unexpected gore and dark comedy.
It should be noted that that last element, as well as Mimi’s completely sociopathic and narcissistic behaviour, may be a turn-off for some audiences. This is a movie that unapologetically turns a secondary character into a giant brain with tentacles, and frequently murders innocent bystanders, several of whom are children. Some viewers will undoubtedly see this as cruel and mean, but in the context of the film, it makes perfect sense.
The audio commentary of is the gem of the more than 2 hours of bonus features of the disc. Any commentary that begins with a Uwe Boll slam is a winner, so credit Kostanski for openly mocking the endless scroll from 2005’s Alone in the Dark.
There aren’t a ton of juicy revelations in the rest of the commentary, aside from how much of the shooting was hampered by bad weather that affected nearly all of the outdoor scenes (particularly the PG vs Paladins fight in the woods, a large portion of which is also insert work done after the fact).
Still, for fans interested in behind the scenes anecdotes from filming, Kostanski is a very wry, very candid speaker who isn’t afraid to say what he thinks works and doesn’t in his own film. Plus: kudos to the man for (correctly) recognizing that the now iconic “hunky boys” joke is the film’s best.
Other Bonus material:
- One-on-One: An Interview with the Director of PG: Psycho Goreman reveals the origins of the film, which is derived in part from Rawhead Rex and builds on Kostanski’s portion of ABCs of Death 2, as well as how he ups the ante by continuously changing the narrative, and his creature design for PG. This is a good complement to the many details included in the audio commentary.
- Interviews with the cast includes brief interviews with Ninaber and Kara Hancey discussing the challenges of wearing the suits and the excitement Hanna and Myre felt being on set.
- The interview with Kostanski’s long-time friend/collaborator Adam Brooks is conducted via a panda, which is…an amusing choice.
- Kortex: A Konversation is a straightforward interview, albeit with the character from the film (not actor Matthew Kennedy)
- The Music of PG: Musicians Blitz/Berlin detail how they put together the film’s guitar heavy score that evokes, but doesn’t make fun of, early morning 90s cartoons like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
- Fight Choreography is a brief interview with Alex Chung (who also plays Darkstream). He breaks down his process, which includes a surprising amount of character design and gore, not just choreo. I especially appreciated the shoutout/nod to the iconic Guyver kick.
- This leads into a few additional featurettes on key battles in the film, including Fight Pre-Viz of the Paladin fight, then footage taken on location in the woods, as well as the final swordplay battle with Pandora in the warehouse.
- Miniature Magic is a very brief featurette with cinematographer Andrew Appelle 2nd AD Pierce Derks detail how they shot the Templar world of Didax.
- The Creature Shop shows Kostanski and the special effects makeup team hard and work making masks, bloody props and other viscera. It’s a mostly silent featurette with score that feels like the missed opportunity of the bonus features because the film is so heavy with makeup effects that it could have gone more in-depth.
- Plus: the obligatory art and behind the scenes galleries.
The Bottom Line
Psycho Goreman is a ton of fun. It’s an ode to Saturday morning cartoons, low-budget monster movies, as well as independent (Canadian) cinema. It features muppets and creatures, copious amounts of blood and gore, and one truly sociopathic little girl. Psycho Goreman is a labour of love that’s a joy to watch because it wears its silliness, its heart and its splatstick on its sleeve with unapologetic glee.
PG: Psycho Goreman is now out on DVD and Blu