Psycho Goreman (2020)
I am hoping at some point that comedy makes a comeback. I know I don't review straight comedies on this site, but I like the best ones just as much as I like horror, science fiction and all the other stuff that I watch where the humor isn't always intentional. Unfortunately, in the last decade or so, comedy has pretty much died out. It's not like some want to think, blaming cancel culture and ultrasensitivity, but rather that too many writers have forgotten how to simply be funny.
The Farelly brothers, and especially the second Austin Powers film, lowered the bar so much that no one has bothered to lift it again. We get the occasional bright spot, like The 40 Year Old Virgin, but Judd Apatow is just as guilty as everyone else. Instead of humor arising from awkward situations, absurd jokes or even situations that audiences can relate to, it's all bodily fluids and dragging out trite stereotypes to be edgy. At some point comedy writers and directors returned to being little kids at recess flicking boogers at each other.
Thus, horror and action films have had to carry the comedic load for some time. That even includes the old standby, the romantic comedy, as now there often has to be an action or horror plot to go with finding our perfect mate and breaking TSA rules to pursue them. This is in spite of the fact the original horror comedies simply managed to both thrill and entertain at the same time. When they try to go too far in one direction or another is when things lose their way. It doesn't help that many recent movies of this type have tried to mesh several genres together in hopes of being clever. Instead, like Psycho Goreman, they end up being like the guy at the party that is trying too hard to make sure everyone likes him, when if he would just not lay it on so thick it would be much smoother.
Mimi (Nita-Josée Hanna) and Luke (Owen Myre) are brother and sister. Mimi is the dominant one, often bossing Luke around as well as her parents. As for them Greg (Adam Brooks) and Susan (Alexis Kara Hancey) are often too busy arguing with each other to pay much attention to what their children are doing. This becomes obvious when the two dig up the prison of the Archduke of Nightmares (Matthew Ninaber, Steven Vlahos), a being that has destroyed thousands of planets and murdered billions of people throughout the universe. He rises, ready to go about his killing spree once more, but there is one problem: Mimi has the Jewel of Praxidice, the thing that gives the creature its power. By possessing it she can control everything he does.
The siblings name the being Psycho Goreman (PG for short), and make him part of their play group, along with Luke's friend Alasdair (Scout Flint), who at Mimi's bidding gets turned into a walking, talking brain with tentacles. It's not all fun and games, as PG intends on grabbing the jewel at the first chance, destroying Earth and continuing his reign of terror. To make sure that doesn't happen, Pandora (Kristen MacCulloch), the leader of a race called the Templars that imprisoned PG in the first place, intends this time to destroy him completely. As the final battle draws near PG must also deal with his former legion of villains as well as the rules of Crazyball, a complicated game invented by Luke and Mimi that may determine the fate of the universe.
Despite its obvious cheapness - parts of it reminded me of a Power Rangers episode - many of the effects and costumes are well-done. We have reached a point where in a lot of cases the lower-budget films have better practical and CGI effects than the big-budget Marvel extravaganzas, and Psycho Goreman is no exception. It also helps that he's not a CGI character, but Matthew Ninaber in a giant foam suit with Steven Vlahos giving a Darth Vader-inspired vocal performance. With PG, at least, the comedy works, as everything is played straight and kept within character. There is an unpredictability that I really like.
What I had a problem with was Nita-Josée Hanna. Mimi is everything those of us who don't have children dread. I guess what writer/director Steven Kostanski was going for was cute and precocious, but what he got was an entitled little brat. What's worse than that is there is no payoff. I half expected PG to clean up his ways only to have Mimi pick up where he left off and go on her own path of destruction. Instead, we're treated to a kiddie garage band number that made me wonder why I was continuing to watch the movie at that point, as it is pretty much unbearable. Thank goodness more interesting things happened even if the budget didn't allow for it to reach a grander scale.
It's definitely not a forgettable film. It's got some great ideas and, happily, doesn't just paint by numbers as it goes along, and has a truly unexpected ending. Psycho Goreman, as well as his allies and enemies, seems tailor-made for comic books, and I wouldn't be surprised to see something like that pop up. Even a sequel might do it some good as long as we get to explore more of his universe and not be saddled with children as the lead characters. PG doesn't even have to necessarily always be a lead character, but there is so much here that, someday, may eclipse this film despite the cult favorite it is becoming. I think we're seeing the start of something grand but, at this point, it's still the guy with the lampshade on his head who hasn't been drinking, but is desperate for anyone to pay attention.
Psycho Goreman (2020)
Time: 95 minutes
Starring: Nita-Josée Hanna, Owen Myre, Matthe Ninaber, Kristin MacCulloch
Director: Steven Kostanski