What to Watch Verdict
'Psycho Goreman' is tender, tenderized, and entertaining whether you're seeking a midnighter representing Jackson Pollock's "red period" or something the whole family can enjoy (eh, some families).
📺 "Kid in a candy store" practical effects.
📺 Sweeter than candy.
📺 Nails the horror-comedy between unlikely partners.
📺 Thoughtful, out-of-bounds imagination.
📺 Performances, at times, are underwhelming.
📺 Feels extremely "indie," which might distract some.
How can Psycho Goreman simultaneously represent the darkest souls and purest hearts? Writer and director Steven Kostanski ponders the fusion between Power Rangers and Harry And The Hendersons when forced through an eternal damnation makeover. It’s blood-drenched, infectiously hammy, and ferociously wholesome in terms of humane themes caked in the viscera of slain enemies. Kostanski works his effects department overtime between intergalactic fortress miniatures, more villain costumes than an entire Halloween Horror Nights dressing room, and gratuitous death sequences fit for the Arch-Duke Of Nightmares. Welcome to the zaniest 80s family-comedy-satire hoisted on the shoulders of an unstoppable killing machine with the raddest name in the galaxy.
Suburban daughter, sister, and troublemaker Mimi (Nita-Josee Hanna) finds an ancient amulet buried in her backyard. Brother Luke (Owen Myre) worries the glowing crystal may act as a beacon for something terrifying, which it does. “The Nameless One” (Matthew Ninaber) awakens from his imprisoned earthbound slumber, ready to conquer universes once more, but Mimi’s in control. Whoever possesses the Gem Of Praxidike, as Mimi’s hulking gladiator pet reveals, becomes the puppetmaster pulling his strings. Mimi’s in charge, renames the maniac “Psycho Goreman,” and begins killing boredom by welcoming the inter-dimensional monster into her family. Cue wacky sitcom hi-jinx, lessons learned, and councils from above sending their fiercest warriors to defeat “PG” once and for all.
Where to begin with this amalgamation of The Brady Bunch and all the decapitation-vile violence that accompanies a namesake like “Psycho Goreman?” Its teaching-through-each-other schmaltz is supposed to be yucky (the humorous definition) and Mortal Kombat brutality do-it-yourself down to the metallic shoulder-parrots and PG’s frozen victims caught in an abyssal purgatory where only pain exists. Mimi isn’t meant to understand the unlimited power her control over PG holds, nor is PG supposed to be the impenetrable Doom villain who mutilates his way through problem after problem. The warmly natured message within Kostanski’s screenplay endures as PG absorbs hallmark teachings about free will, love, and even his own sexuality (“I do not care for hunky boys...or do I?”).
Frankly, it’s the above line about “hunky boys'' that unlocks the netherworld compassion of Psycho Goreman. Kostanski massages in these fantastic moments of revelation and realization as a superhuman demigod questions his interest in men or is repeatedly silenced when another bonkers-dystopian flashback is interrupted by Mimi’s boredom. That’s also what makes Nita-Josee Hanna’s performance such a lynchpin since her pipsqueak of a tomboy has to channel immense personality traits that could counteract the devil himself. This is what allows, say, for a John Hughes dress-up montage or PG playing drums in a youth rock band that sings lyrics like “frig off” as a new, age-appropriate punk anthem. How else would Kostanski squeeze his horned, meteorite-skinned aberration into Dr. Alan Grant cosplay?
That sweetness, the drama that stokes dysfunction between Mimi’s “lazy” father Greg (Adam Brooks) and workhorse mother Susan (Alexis Kara Hancey), juxtaposes PG’s insatiable bloodlust. Kostanski cheekily pokes fun at Greg’s fragile male ego, given the comically slow zoom-ins on a dejected patriarch who depends so helplessly on Susan, but childhood beats are in total sincerity. Mimi’s spunky anti-religion, pro-independence, shitkicker attitude goes the extra mile, and plays an unlikely and equal combatant against PG’s warlord executioner who, with the flick of wrists, yanks spinal columns from insolent foes. Yet, he’s ordered around like a puppy dog by a fleshy tyrant and is repeatedly slapped into place, followed by sighs, pouts, and mumbled threats of planetary eradication under his breath. Here’s PG, the warrior responsible for freeing Gigax from the Templar Crusaders who enslaved his kind unless they drink the Space Kool-Aid they’re selling, licking ice cream cones, or pranking Greg. Bonds strengthen, emotions flourish, and then ultimate huntress Pandora (Kristen MacCulloch) splits Mimi’s family into warring factions.
Anyone familiar with Kostanski’s previous work, within or outside Astron-6 boundaries, will not balk at the impossibly vast approach to star-traveler getups, alien landscapes, and whatever else Kostanski’s effects warehouse can mold. Everything is practical. From wriggly tentacle fauna on Gigax that PG pick-axes like weeds to the “Paladins” PG communicates with who beam onto Earth, from “Bucket Mincer Of Guts Man” to “Robot Debutante C-3PO Knockoff” (Power Rangers reference is to mini-boss creations). Melted police officers morphed into zombies, hovering android sidekicks, literal bone broadswords fashioned from PG’s adversaries? Psycho Goreman is a masterclass in homegrown enthusiasm and a callback to better cinematic eras where models, latex, and dreamlike puppetry offered the only effects options. A smorgasbord of carnage cravings and tremendously talented costume fittings kissed with passionate conveyance.
Psycho Goreman is a Saturday morning non-cartoon with sensational savagery and live-action Heavy Metal influences. An after-school special imbued with merciless, maniac consequences. Steven Kostanski creates something that could play between Dude Bro Party Massacre III and WNUF Halloween Special in some fictional-of-their-time marathon (despite being modern titles). Adult Swim vibes meet unrelenting 80s grindhouse relentlessness, the kind that centers a tremendous beating heart, which happens to be your organ, torn through the gaping hole in your rib cage. Even at that, you’ll still smile as the fates of solar systems hinge on the outcome of complicated dodgeball remixes. A rare experience that lives up to its name whether your interpretation favors the pungently silly, the obscenely graphic, or the hilariously healing slaughterhouse pockets in between.
Matt Donato is a Rotten Tomatoes approved film critic who stays up too late typing words for What To Watch, IGN, Paste, Bloody Disgusting, Fangoria and countless other publications. He is a member of Critics Choice and co-hosts a weekly livestream with Perri Nemiroff called the Merri Hour. You probably shouldn't feed him after midnight, just to be safe.