Psycho Goreman is not a perfect movie. The script is uneven, the acting often feels off, and the plot veers from camp to pure gibberish. But there's also something special about Psycho Goreman — a sci-fi horror mashup with major '80s vibes — that gives me hope the 2020s won't just be another era of superheroes and sequels. This practical effects-heavy indie grindhouse flick is our best shot at something weird and original at the start of a daunting new decade.
Directed and written by Steven Kostanski, Psycho Goreman is above all else a showcase for the work of the production company he co-runs called Astron-6. Founded in 2007, the group is devoted to low-budget movies that blend horror and comedy with a 1980s vibe. This new film, which isn't a direct product of Astron-6 but comes from the brain of one of its key members, lives up to that promise. And then some.
The plot is somehow both extremely straightforward and totally incomprehensible. Psycho Goreman follows a domineering little girl and her nerdy older brother who discover an interdimensional demon buried in their backyard. Newly awakened, the monster sets out to destroy this world (starting with a few low-life criminals), but it turns out that little Mimi (Nita-Josee Hanna) got her hands on a magic stone that gives her complete control of the beast. That's where the fun starts.
Mimi and her tween brother Luke (Owen Myre) spend the bulk of the movie ordering Psycho Goreman around after giving him that bitchin' new name (PG for short). This involves messing with their parents and transforming a few hapless bystanders into freakish zombies. The movie's unofficial ta-line is: E.T. meets Evil Dead, and it lives up to that promise — for about as long as you'd need to make a really good trailer.
Eventually, a bunch of other beautifully grotesque aliens show up to either help or kill PG (it's sometimes unclear). Each new creature is more visually bizarre than the last thanks to some of the most creative character designs and makeup work seen in years. Some, like Psycho Goreman, are sinewy monsters. Others look more like cyberpunk robots. The best are somewhere in between, shriveled monstrosities with robotic arms and faces. When they fight, it's nothing short of epic, even if the fights themselves are about as well-choreographed as a kindergarten dance recital.
If the best thing about Psycho Goreman is the weird sci-fi monsters, the worst is the humans. Not a single one of them is believable, from Mimi (unflappable even in the face of a 7-foot bloodthirsty demon) to her parents, who seem completely unfazed by the increasingly strange things happening in their home. The bumbling, incompetent father is almost totally unbelievable, veering from lazy and stupid to downright evil and back again with no warning. It might almost be campy if it wasn't totally out of place compared to the rest of the film.
Psycho Goreman is not a perfect movie, but despite all these flaws, there's something great buried in this film. Like Mimi and Luke uncovering a violent demon in their backyard, Kostanski has unearthed the powers of schlocky practical effects to delight sci-fi fans in a way that even Marvel can't match. Now, if someone could just give him a better script, we might get something truly great before the 2020s are over.
Psycho Goreman is available on-demand starting January 22.