If E.T. Exploded Heads: ‘Psycho Goreman’ is a Retro Horror-Comedy Done Right

Psycho Goreman is rich with the kitsch style that gave pre-CGI horror flicks such long-lasting charm. It tells the story of Mimi (Nita-Josee Hanna) and her brother Luke (Owen Myre), two ordinary kids who find a magical amulet that gives them the power to control a world-destroying alien monster they nickname Psycho Goreman (Matthew Ninaber), or PG for short.

The film opens on Mimi and Luke in their garden, playing a complex ball game they invented together. This introduction gives you a really clear impression of what Mimi and Luke are like and their relationship with each other. Both characters are driven by one key quality of their personality, which is definitely played up for comic effect, but not so much that they become two-dimensional.

Mimi is hard-headed and confident; she is determined to get everything she wants out of life and is prepared to do whatever she needs to do to get it. Sometimes that means bullying her sensitive brother. While Luke can hold his own in their games, he can be a bit of a pushover when it comes to his sister’s whims, and his compassion is the driving force behind his decisions. For the most part, however, the two get along.

It’s nice to see a relationship between siblings that isn’t exclusively centred on their rivalry. In the early scenes, they are genuinely good friends, with secret codes that allow them to communicate without their parents knowing, and have an evident fondness for each other. Their connection is well established early on so that, for all the film’s silliness, the later conflict has some emotional impact.

The way the children – Mimi in particular – wield their power over PG is the source of a lot of the film’s comedy. With all the power of an intergalactic warlord at their fingertips, they develop a team version of their ball game and make PG be the drummer in their band. When they have to go to school or bed, Mimi offers PG a TV set and some magazines with pictures of hunky boys to keep himself occupied. These comic scenes are complemented by absurd body horror as PG transforms some unsuspecting humans into gross, distorted monsters for daring to cross him and his young masters. There are some moments when the comedy turns to surprisingly sharp satire that is nestled so comfortably in with the nonsense that it can take a second to sink in. This makes for a fun montage, until the aliens PG crossed during his ancient rampage catch wind of his re-emergence and invade Earth to finish him off once and for all.

PG’s backstory is told with a wonderful flashback. He tells his child masters his history of inter-planetary battle, which could easily have been shot as a simple conversation between PG and the kids. Instead, a lot of effort has gone into creating an intricate sequence of entirely practical effects in which many different species of aliens clash.

You see the puppets and costumes in more detail when the film cuts away to the alien council and they finally track PG down for some earthbound battles. They aren’t exactly Jim Henson level quality, particularly those that require lip movement, but they are definitely reminiscent of that passion for puppetry. The care that has been put into both the design and build of all the practical effects really shows.

As Psycho Goreman nears its climax, it does get a little bit messy. Mimi and Luke’s parents get dragged into the chaos, having been background characters for the better part of the plot. The film has one of those endings that makes you wonder why any alien that is actually that invested in world domination would ever agree to terms set by children.

Nonetheless, this movie is a fun watch. The silliness suits the tone in such a way that, while you have to be willing to buy into some weirdness, it does make its own kind of sense. The fact that the big climactic finish lands with a song is probably all you need to know to understand what type of film this is.

Psycho Goreman is not a story that you’re supposed to think about too hard; it doesn’t have a groundbreaking moral message at its foundation. Regardless, it has a sweet story about the love between siblings, some solid jokes and some wonderfully constructed aliens. The slightly hammy bits felt like they were supposed to be, as if they were a conscious decision to fit the film’s aesthetic, rather than shunting you out of the story. It strikes just the right balance between wholesome and ridiculous, making for the kind of film that it is difficult not to enjoy.


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