What if you were the weirdest kid in town, and your imaginary friend was an intergalactic warlord with glowing eyes and a deep love of murder?
Now, what if this imaginary friend wasn't so imaginary?
Director Steven Kostanski's 'Psycho Goreman' taps into the current cycle of films and TV series that includes Netflix's 'Stranger Things', 'Super Dark Times' and 'It', all of which are based around the same concept: a gang of adolescent outcasts embark on a dangerous, horror-tinged adventure in small-town America. That cycle is itself heavily indebted to similar stories that actually came out in the '80s, like 'The Goonies', 'The Monster Squad', and Stephen King's original novel version of 'IT'. The key difference here is that Kostanski is much more interested in comedy than terror.
Brother and sister Luke (Owen Myre) and Mimi (Nita-Josee Hanna) are two kids living an ordinary existence in an average suburban neighbourhood. Mimi is hotheaded, likes to boss her older brother around and plays a made-up sport called Crazy Ball. One night, the kids find a strange steel coffin buried under their backyard, which Mimi unwittingly opens. This unleashes a crucifix-crushing cosmic force of darkness that has been imprisoned for millennia (in what feels like a nod to Michael Mann's similarly premised 'The Keep'). With Mimi gaining control over the greatest threat in the galaxy via a magical gem, she decides to teach this grim entity the meaning of friendship... whether he likes it or not. Meanwhile, the children and their new pal are being stalked by enemies from the cold reaches of space, the puritanical Templars and bureaucratic Planetary Alliance (the film's flashbacks hint at some cool universe building, like 'He-Man' crossed with 'Army of Darkness').
Though the film is named for the aforementioned warlord, 'Psycho Goreman' is at heart about the girl who summons him. His alien homeworld is unpleasant and PG (played by Matthew Ninaber and voiced by Steven Vlahos) even more so, but Mimi identifies with him more than she ever has to her meek brother or her blandly smiling parents, Susan (Alexis Hancey) and Greg (Adam Brooks).
With her barely checked mania and appetite for destruction, the young girl comes from a longstanding tradition of diabolical children (see: Louise Belcher, Stewie Griffin, Kevin McAllister). Kostanski's film manages to set Mimi apart from her peers with her chirpy attitude and her wholehearted embrace of not just the macabre, but also the homicidal.
Kristen MacCulloch and Anna Tierney as Templar leader Pandora and Rich Evans as Death Trapper round out the cast, giving the antagonists of 'Psycho Goreman' an extra shot of bonkers energy to match PG and Mimi's pitch-black absurdity.
The film's retro look is reminiscent of the brand of schlock that came out in the early '90s, like 'Mighty Morphin Power Rangers' and 'The Guyver'. It is violent, the practical effects are amazing, and the creatures (stunt men wearing rubber suits) are imaginatively designed, with Chris Nash supervising on-set creature effects. My personal favourite was the baddie made of tombstones who PG murders by ripping open its chest, yanking out a red rose and sadistically crushing it. As rendered by Alex Chung's fight choreography and the cinematography of Andrew Appelle, there is seemingly no limit to PG's super strength and magical abilities. He gleefully makes the most of it, executing his foes (or annoyances) with over-the-top bloodshed and subjecting them to comically diabolical fates. This all occurs to the bemusement of the two kids, who Psycho Goreman threatens to eviscerate, even as he begins to grow fond of them.
The film lands a lot of its best jokes when it has room to just let its twisted characters clash against everyday life.
The movie's tone is noisy and funny - there's always chaos erupting somewhere on-screen, accompanied by an excellent score of synth-wave and heavy metal Blitz//Berlin (who also worked on Kostanski's 'The Void'). Of course, this style of film-making isn't for everyone, since a comic relief scene is one thing, but a movie that is nothing but comic relief scenes is something else. 'Psycho Goreman' slots firmly into this latter category, which includes 'The Toxic Avenger' movies, 'Howard The Duck', 'The Meteor Man', 'Blankman', 'The Mask', 'Orgazmo' and 'Deadpool'.
The film lands a lot of its best jokes when it has room to let its twisted characters clash against everyday life. There's PG playing drums in a band and wandering around town dressed like Sam Neill's character in 'Jurassic Park'. There's Mimi asking PG to turn her crush, Alastair, into an affectionate playmate - PG proceeds to mutate the young lad into a hideously oozing brain-like creature. Adam Brooks as Mimi's father Greg is especially fun as he grapples with the unusual phenomena ushered in by his daughter's monstrous chum, like bleeding TV screens and astral projections that manifest while he's sitting on the toilet.
'Psycho Goreman' absolutely has its flaws. But it's also an instant cult movie, and a must-see for the sheer fun of it. Hopefully, he has some sequels planned. Now that the stage is set, Kostanski has more space to let his characters play - even if that means more death and dismemberment for anyone who gets in their way.