Friday, January 29, 2021

Psycho Goreman

Psycho Goreman
Steven Kostanski

Mimi (Nita-Josee Hanna) and Luke (Owen Myre) are siblings who uncover a glowing gem from under the ground. The gem allows them to control the Archduke of Nightmares, an alien warlord who has been imprisoned. Mimi quickly takes control and renames him Psycho Goreman (or PG for short). Meanwhile, a religious fanatic cult lead by an angel-like figure named Pandora (Kristen MacCulloch) heads to Earth to destroy Psycho Goreman once and for all. She hasn’t counted on him learning the value of love and friendship (well… kind of.)

At this point, the 1980s aesthetic has been mined nearly to death. It seems every week there will be a new film that borrows the slick neon, synthesizer-driven aesthetic. Usually, these elements rarely go beyond a surface level, but occasionally we get a work that really digs down to the core of what films in the 1980s were dealing with, some in an obtuse way such as Beyond the Black Rainbow (2010) and some in a much more direct way that rides that careful line between satire and homage. Psycho Goreman is the latter.

Back in the 1980s we could leave our houses and eat inside restaurants.

Psycho Gorman knits together the 1980s staples of kids & monsters (E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial (1982), Gremlins (1984)), and the over-the-top gore (Re-Animator (1985), Evil Dead 2 (1987)). The love for these things is evident in every slimy rubber monster and explosion of blood throughout the film. One of the reoccurring elements of 1980s cinema is a much more black and white sense of morality. The good guys were pure (if a little damaged on occasion) and the bad guys are rarely motivated by anything else aside from being evil. The clever subversion in all this comes from the fact that there really aren’t any good guys in this film. Psycho Goreman is the worst villain in the universe. To call Mimi mad with power would be a kindness. Pandora works for the side of order but it is order without morality.

There are plenty of visual gross-out gags, but a lot of comedy comes from characters who have subdued reactions to the absolute chaos around them. It isn’t that they take things for granted, it’s more like the humans are really unable to conceive of the cosmic forces they are dealing with it. This underplayed comedy works as a lovely counterpoint to cartoonish graphic violence. Not every joke lands but Psycho Goreman keeps a steady flow of comedy coming at the viewer.

A good movie can let you know everything you need to know in one image.

If the film just kept the comedy and horror in equal measure it would be fine but hollow. Underneath all the chaos there is an actual heart. We have a family that is disintegrating and although that disintegration is usually played for laughs there is an undertone of tragedy. At the climax this nuance makes things feel earned. The core relationship between Mimi and Luke is what is really at stake in this film and things have always been building to that payoff.

Psycho Goreman is not only a love letter to some very specific 1980s tropes but it works as a film in its own right.

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