At a time when ’80s nostalgia is dominating pop culture and kids on bikes playing D&D get on freaky adventures on a daily basis, it feels refreshing to see a filmmaker take those same ’80s movie tropes and plots and apply them to ’90s Saturday morning cartoons and Japanese tokusatsu shows like Ultraman and Kamen Rider. The result is PG: Psycho Goreman, an ass-kicking, bone-crushing, face-melting love letter to practical creature effects that feels right at home with a triple feature alongside Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and an episode of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, made for those of us who grew up on those franchises and then developed a taste for bloody monster movies and dark humor.
Canadian filmmaker Steven Kostanski follows his 2017 John Carpenter-inspired, Lovecraftian extravaganza The Void with PG: Psycho Goreman, a timeless tale of two kids who befriend an intergalactic warlord bent on destroying everything in his path. Like any self-respecting ’80s/’90s family movie, it follows two young siblings: Luke (Owen Myre) and Mimi (Nita-Josee Hanna) do everything together, not just to get away from their constantly fighting parents, but because Mimi rules over her brother with an iron fist, including inventing an overly complicated dodgeball-like game that seems to be mostly about Mimi hitting Luke with a basketball. Combining two very different but surprisingly compatible genres, the opening scenes begin at the intersection of the classic monster film wherein dumb humans find and activate an ancient evil artifact, and timeless, Amblin-inspired stories of children discovering a magical or alien creature that becomes their best friend as they go on a wonderful adventure.
Except this is not awestruck Elliott learning about friendship and life from E.T., but Mimi, the egomaniac bully, accidentally finding the mystical gem that gives her complete control over a bloodthirsty intergalactic conqueror known as The Archduke of Nightmares (Matthew Ninaber). Rather than having her act like regular kids and run away, or even try to turn the alien into a gentle monster, Kostanski makes both the kid and her alien friend absolute monsters with complete disregard for decency or mercy and gives them both an arc of learning to — maybe — care about others.
Surprisingly enough, it works, and it’s in large part thanks to Mimi. She may be even more of a monster than the Archduke of Nightmares, who Mimi takes great pleasure in renaming “Psycho Goreman” (or PG for short – a brilliant joke in itself, because this movie is anything but PG). Hanna plays Mimi with equal parts infuriating brattiness and enough badassery to gain a little admiration by the end. She threatens, insults, belittles, and punishes everyone around her, no matter their size; like PG, she loves nothing more than being in power and having people fear her. But you can’t help but root for Mimi a little bit because Hanna is clearly having an absolute ball, and it spreads to the rest of the cast and the film itself — especially when Mimi starts headlining a musical montage while singing her own song, “I’m the Heckin’ Best.”
Kostanski’s other secret weapon is his unabashed love of practical creature effects. Where The Void was an homage to the kind of tentacled horror from the ’80s, Psycho Goreman is the closest we’ll get to an R-rated Power Rangers movie with Lord Zedd as the protagonist. The practical, rubber monsters – believe me, there are many more creatures where PG came from – are the right mix of complex creature design and low-budget production charm, from the robotic religious zealot Pandora (Kristen MacCulloch) to a kid-sized brain with eyes and tendrils to what can only be described as a walking bucket filled with guts and skulls. The creatures feel like something straight out of Aqua Teen Hunger Force or early Peter Jackson movies, and it makes me want a whole cinematic universe exploring their past exploits conquering the galaxy – especially since the story behind them here is admittedly more than a bit thin.
Despite its clear inspiration in children’s shows, PG: Psycho Goreman is definitely not for kids. While it finds the time to pull at the heartstrings and teach some valuable lessons about family and love, this is a hard-R film full of mutants, dismembered muggers, gross creatures, and absolute tons of gore. It had me busting a gut laughing as the fate of the world is decided by a game of dodgeball, and then took that busted gut and tore it to pieces and bathing in blood. It may be a sign of current times or just a sign of how much fun this movie is, but PG: Psycho Goreman has already shown that 2021 may just turn out to be a phenomenal year for movies.
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