PG Psycho Goreman does not inspire confidence in its opening moments. I knew what I was getting into, adjusting my expectations accordingly, yet I still found myself thinking “OK, here we go, another Hobo with a Shotgun.”
Shows what can happen when you jump to conclusions early, because in the very next scene, as Luke (Owen Myre) quizzes his parents on the existence of monsters, his loveable buffoon of a father philosophises that “in a lot of ways, humans are the real monsters,” before clarifying to his clearly troubled child “So I’d say yes.” For a film that clearly does not take itself too seriously, I admired its comedic sharpness at such an early stage. Before, writer and director Steven Kostanski had my curiosity, but now he has my attention.
Unabashedly inspired by the horror and science fiction B-movies of the ‘80s and ‘90s, PG: Psycho Goreman opens with the typical rolling text telling of an evil alien overlord who sought to destroy the universe but was imprisoned on earth before he could do so. However, when he is unwittingly awoken by the Mimi (Nita-Josee Hanna) and her brother Luke, the children soon discover that so long as Mimi possesses an ancient artefact belonging to the bloodthirsty being, who they name Psycho Goreman (or PG for short), he has no choice but to grudgingly do her bidding.
Do not let the apparent bluster of its story and visuals fool you, PG: Psycho Goreman is more nuanced than its midnight movie influences would have you believe. Sure, you have the usual “nameless evil” versus the apparent “forces of light” (yes, these are quotes straight from the film), but Kostanski toys with these concepts while weaving a heart-warming narrative in the midst of all-out insanity.
While I am not necessarily a fan of the genre that Kostanski emulates, PG: Psycho Goreman is at its best when it does just that, from the intentionally cheesy dialogue to the imaginative use of Star Wars-esque practical effects and makeup, with Kostanski finding the humour in much of what he and his team creates. Even when the usual obligatory sci-fi exposition is being shelled out to the audience, Kostanski pulls out all the stops to make it as engaging as possible, an underrated trait in any director worth their salt. There are those in film circles who would be abhorred at the audacity of labelling Kostanski an auteur, but there is an argument to be made for his unique approach to the material, not to mention his ability to dramatize visuals before stripping their stylish veneer for comedic effect.
Though, a masterpiece this is not.
At times, PG: Psycho Goreman clings too tightly to its roots, coming off as bombastic yet stunted. More often than not they involve Nita Josee Hanna, whose performance, while showing a knack for comedic timing, too often veers into the overdramatic. Yes, even by midnight B-movie standards. Although, occasionally she is instead let down by shaky writing, which is disappointing considering Kostanski’s screenplay and direction consistently does right by other characters, most notably Pyscho Goreman and his galactic cohorts, but not always his lead.
The final act, then, triples down on everything that came before, but to mixed results. While it embraces much of what made the PG: Psycho Goreman so much fun, it also dwells on many of the elements that dragged it down. Still, for better or for worse this is a film that stays true to itself, which I admire, and stands as one of the best odes to B-movie culture I have seen in some time.