The Retro (And Bloody) Pleasures of PG: PSYCHO GOREMAN

PG: PSYCHO GOREMAN (2021)
Directed by Steven Kostanski
Written by Steven Kostanski
Produced by Stuart F. Andrews, Shannon Hanmer, Steven Kostanski
Rated R, 99 min

Lovecraftian horror isn’t that easy to get right, but Steven Kostanski’s 2017 feature The Void had viewers and critics alike praising its genuine chills and emphasis on practical effects over CGI. The Void evoked 80’s horror films like Carpenter’s The Thing, Prince of Darkness, and Stuart Gordon’s Re-Animator and From Beyond without imitating them, and fans of cosmic horror could be genuinely excited about what else would emerge from the minds and talent of Kostanski and writer Jeremy Gillespie.

If you were expecting a love-letter to 80’s and 90’s guys-in-monster-suits – think The Guyver meets The Power Rangers meets Psycho Cop – then congratulations, you win the prize of PG: Psycho Goreman. If you weren’t expecting this smart, funny, cheerfully gory and bonkers film, well, don’t feel bad, because I didn’t either. Part of that comes from my only exposure to Kostanski’s work being The Void, and not taking into account his work with Astron-6, the Canadian film group behind his Manborg, and the films The Editor and Father’s Day. I also hadn’t realized just how much of Kostanski’s work I’d seen without realizing it, considering his extensive makeup work on films like Nurse 3D, ABCs of Death 2, Crimson Peak, Suicide Squad, IT, and shows like Star Trek: Discovery.

Keeping things spoiler-lite, siblings Mimi (Nita-Josee Hanna) and Luke (Owen Myre) discover a glowing gemstone in a hole in their back yard, not realizing that removing it will release the alien creature imprisoned beneath it. When they discover the creature it tries to kill them only to discover it can’t since Mimi has the gem and whoever controls the gem controls the alien. That the alien was imprisoned on Earth for being a psychopathic, genocidal, intergalactic despot doesn’t matter to Mimi for two reasons: first, she’s something of an adolescent sociopath herself, and second, she has an alien monster she can control, so why shouldn’t she have some fun?

Meanwhile, the alien alliance that imprisoned the newly-renamed Psycho Goreman discovered he has been released from his prison, and his greatest enemy makes her way to Earth to confront him. The word “noble” might be used to describe her, but she has no intention of letting “The Arch-Duke of Nightmares” roam free again and if a few humans have to die along the way, well…

What follows is part sci-fi creature-feature, part horror monster-movie, part family drama, and, rather unexpectedly, a story about the power of love. That the love is between a murdering space alien and a little girl who might be more of a monster than he is, well, I did use the words cheerfully gory and bonkers earlier. There is a delightfully warped sense of humor that runs through the entire film, and PG: Psycho Goreman is always aware of the absurdity of the story it is telling and leans hard into all of its various inspirations in a way that homages its origins without actively making fun of them. You can tell Kostanski loves these genres but isn’t afraid to push them to their boundaries and cover them all in a lot of blood and exploding body parts.

And the practical effects…

If you grew up before CGI became the norm for creating the aliens and monsters of our entertainment, this film is a delightful throwback to a time where creating a costume, animatronic or puppet was the only way to bring these kinds of creatures to life. Kostanski clearly loves to play with his toys, and here he gets to let his imagination run wild. His creatures all have character and make you want to see more of them, and that so many of them are shown moving around and engaging in actual fight scenes is rather impressive in this day and age.

Of course, great creatures, lots of blood and gore, and a warped sense of humor are all a great deal of fun but only go so far without entertaining performances from the actual people on the screen. Thankfully, Nita-Josee Hanna’s Mimi is delightful to watch in her youthful malice, and Owen Myre’s effective turn as her long-suffering older brother Luke is a voice of semi-reason, even if he is promptly ignored. Great child actors – good child actors – are not in as plentiful supply as we’d often like, but both of these young talents are perfect for these roles. As their mother, Susan, Alexis Hancey is enough of the 80’s sitcom mom eternally exasperated by her slacker husband, Greg, and endlessly tolerant of her children’s antics, and yet she plays a pivotal role in the action-packed climax. Greg, played by Adam Brooks, also evokes the hapless sitcom father while also getting to show off some perfectly-timed physical comedy and, in the end, show that he’s not entirely useless when the chips are down. In many ways, the family dynamic has to work in this film, exaggerated as it is, and these actors provide exactly what this film needs to sell that critical part of the story.

Mention must of course be made of the men and women inside the creatures, most notably – of course – Matthew Ninabar, the man who brings Psycho Gorman to life. Acting under significant prosthetics is never easy, but Ninabar makes it look like it is, and his body language both as an interstellar threat and put-upon plaything of a child is simply a lot of fun to watch. Moving around in that level of costuming is a challenge, but it’s one he performs extremely well, especially in the fight scenes. His climactic confrontation with his arch-enemy Pandora – Kristen MacCulloch, also hidden beneath extensive prosthetics – is everything you would want in such a scene, coming across as deadly serious if just a bit ridiculous.

In the end, this movie is simply fun. If you are of an age to have lived through the films that Kostanski clearly loves the first time, or came to them later and fell in love with them, there is much to enjoy here. The practical effects, the knowing riffs on the tropes of these kinds of films, and the clear amount of fun the director and the cast are obviously having while making the film elevates PG: Psycho Goreman above a standard alien monster movie into a loving and knowing homage to a kind of movie that is so rarely made anymore.

Having said that we want to keep the spoilers lite, if you’ve already seen the film during its theatrical run or on VOD – or just don’t mind some spoilers – I had the pleasure of talking to Steven Kostanski about writing and directing the film, and you can watch that interview here:

I also got to talk to Owen Myre, the very talented young man who plays Luke, and someone whose career I shall be watching with interest.

And finally, I spoke to the man inside the Goreman himself, Matthew Ninabar, about playing the titular alien overlord.

All of them were kind enough to take the time to talk to me about their work on the film and what comes next for them, and as always, I appreciate the chance to have these kinds of conversations with the folks in front of and behind the camera.

PG: Psycho Goreman will be released by RLJE Films on Blu-ray and DVD in the U.S. on March 16th, 2021.

 

Timothy Harvey

Timothy Harvey is a Kansas City based writer, director, actor and editor, with something of a passion for film noir movies. He was the art director for the horror films American Maniacs, Blood of Me, and the pilot for the science fiction series Paradox City. His own short films include the Noir Trilogy, 9 1/2 Years, The Statement of Randolph Carter - adapted for the screen by Jason Hunt - and the music video for IAMEVE’s Temptress. He’s a former President and board member for the Independent Filmmakers Coalition of Kansas City, and has served on the board of Film Society KC.

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