Directed by Steven Kostanski
Notable cast Nita-Josee Hanna, Owen Myre, Matthew Ninaber, Adam Brooks
The Japanese tokusatsu genre has existed in some form or another for the better part of 75 years. Birthed out of films like Godzilla, they refer mostly to a style of special effects and codified in characters with international (if a bit niche) appeal like Jet Jaguar and Ultraman. The genre exploded with worldwide (emphasis on wide) popularity when producer Hiram Saban took the superhero series Super Sentai and inserted new western-shot footage in the non-costumed scenes and rebranded it Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. It’s nearly impossible to overstate the effect of this series on a specific generation of children born in the 80s and 90s with its ludicrous, over the top acting, silly but elaborate monster costumes, and bombastic, pyrotechnic filled fights. This is the energy that Steven Kostanski wants to capture with Psycho Goreman. A thoroughly hard “R” sci-fi/horror comedy, this movie hits on every cylinder it’s trying to with style, humor and panache to spare.
The movie starts with Mimi, a supremely confident, imaginative, manic, and possibly insane 10-year-old beating her brother in the “Calvinball”-like “crazyball” and becoming an intergalactic champion of the sport. Sidenote: Calvinball was a staple of the comic strip Calvin and Hobbes, and if you understand that cultural reference it’s easier to explain that this girl is Calvin made flesh, performed with talent far beyond her years by relative newcomer Nita-Josee Hanna. Declaring that her loser brother Luke (also relatively new, but talented young actor Owen Myre) must be buried alive in a grave dug himself, the children set to tunneling into their back yard. They find a jewel before being summed to bed by their mother. Later that night, something else breaks out of the hole, a nameless evil who, now freed, immediately sets back out to his work of extinguishing all light in the universe. After following its footprints to a warehouse, the two kids discover that as long as Mimi is in possession of the jewel, he must do as the children tell him. They name him Psycho Goreman (PG for short), and although he warns that as soon as he is able he will kill them and take the jewel back, Mimi decides she wants to keep him as a friend/pet. Soon a member of the alien race that rules most of the universe and had previously imprisoned PG shows up to finish the job and a battle for the fate of the universe begins.
Psycho Goreman is charming to say the least, stylistic with fun costumes and effects and gallons of blood. It truly feels like GWAR directed an episode of Power Rangers, with a dark, nihilistic but also whimsical and slapstick sense of humor. This movie will have deep appeal to anyone who’s nostalgic not only for the young adult action shows of yesteryear but also the more entertaining gorefests of the era… your Army Of Darkness-es or your Nightbreeds. I can honestly see someone being off-put by the movie as well, it’s more clever than puerile, but there are straight-up childish elements making this movie also feel like half of a family film although that’s a seemingly intentional juxtaposition. The effects, though charming and also intentional, are by their nature obvious and cheap. Lots of foam costumes and puppetry. However, even in typing that as a potential negative, I personally got a small rush of nostalgia proving that this was definitely catered to someone with my taste in 90s pop-culture celebration/navel-gazing. I mean, it has a “T-U-R-T-L-E Power”-like rap song summarizing the plot during the credits, if that doesn’t crash over you with a wave of nostalgia, nothing in this film will.
Honestly, this movie is exactly the hardest kind to review, because a numerical grade doesn’t really properly encompass what it is as a film. I can’t in good conscience give it a perfect score, there are some technical and narrative issues to be sure, but that is also not the point. This movie is a neon fever dream of how you remember shows like this (as opposed to how they were) run through a filter of the fun, gore-y popcorn horror the late-90s. It’s similar to how those movies were more self-aware and the whole thing comes together in a way that won’t change cinema or move it forward in any specific way, but it’s almost guaranteed to put smiles on faces. I think that can be enough. Seek out the trailer and honestly, if it doesn’t look like your thing then it probably won’t be… but if it looks even a little fun to you, it couldn’t be more of a sure thing, recommendation wise.