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Review: PG: Psycho Goreman Pays Tribute to ‘80s Schlock with a Surplus of Winks

This tongue-in-cheek gorefest gives the impression of an only semi-coherent joke on the audience.

PG: Psycho Goreman
Photo: RLJE Films

Right down to the reference to a family-friendly movie rating in its title, the tongue-in-cheek gorefest PG: Psycho Goreman gives the impression of an only semi-coherent joke on the audience. Part of a spate of recent horror comedies that persistently wink toward ‘80s schlock, adding a hefty dose of self-reflexivity without turning down the gory excesses (see also Christopher Landon’s Happy Death Day and Freaky), PG: Psycho Goreman suggests a Stuart Gordon movie as written by Seth Rogen and produced by Saban. In other words, it’s a coming-of-age fantasy-horror flick about as committed to the underlying themes of the genres it melds as it is to conforming to high production values.

Writer-director Steven Kostanski opens PG: Psycho Goreman, in the tried-and-true fashion of many an ‘80s fantasy film, by outlining its scenario with a wordy text scroll rendered in blood-red pseudo-gothic block letters. The scroll and a subsequent flashback—a visual orgy of neon lights and crude superimpositions—tell the story of the Archduke of Nightmares (played in costume by Matthew Ninaber and voiced by Steven Vlahos) of the planet Gigax, a former slave who became leader of an order of warriors called the Paladins Obsidian. “Gigax” and “Paladins” here signal another reference to the early-Reagan-era heyday of Dungeons & Dragons—and the film’s scattershot mélange of supernatural and science-fictional monsters and entirely arbitrary magic does bring to mind a homebrew D&D campaign.

Aside from the glimpses we get of the craggy, purplish Gigax during the mid-film flashback, most of PG: Psycho Goreman takes place somewhere in the American suburbs. There we meet preteen Luke (Owen Myre) and his wiseass younger sister, Mimi (Nita-Josee Hanna), whose familial strife is on track to be sublimated into intergalactic conflict. The siblings uncover, buried in their backyard, the capsule that imprisons the Archduke, along with the glowing pink Gem of Praxidike, whose bearer can command the ancient alien overlord. Renaming him Psycho Goreman, or PG for short (a name that probably needs more workshopping, though that seems to be the point), Mimi assumes control over him, unfazed either by his promises that he will eventually rend the children apart or by the bodies he actually leaves in the trio’s wake. The film’s flagrant disregard for our expectations that the children will exhibit any degree of wide-eyed innocence makes for some of its funniest moments: “Will you make sure they kill Luke first?” Mimi asks when PG warns her that the Paladins are coming.

Hanna is a delight to watch as the snarky Mimi, who gradually asserts more and more control over not just PG but also her older brother, thus driving a wedge between the siblings that reflects the growing divide in their parents’ (Alexis Kara Hancey and Adam Brooks) marriage. But if PG: Psycho Goreman can be called disarming, it’s less because its parodic deployment of genre tropes charms viewers into accepting any sort of emotional core and more because of how it reverts to an anarchic scene of dismemberment whenever it verges on some kind of genuine emotion. Such scenes, which consist of actors in rubbery monster suits awkwardly striking each other, have appeal as something caught between cheaply produced movie battles and expensively mounted LARPing, though there’s only so much foam-based swordplay one can watch before it all starts to drag; even the running joke that PG’s trademark finishing movie is to unlatch his jaw and consume his opponents gets old after a while.

However, the film’s lack of reverence for either childhood or fantasy is perhaps preferable to ‘80s throwbacks like Stranger Things that trip over themselves trying to recapture the intense sentimentalism of the era’s Spielbergian blockbuster entertainments. Luke and Mimi’s familial conflict will be projected onto that between PG’s Paladins and the intergalactic order-keeping Templars, led by Pandora (Kristen MacCulloch), but to Kostanski both the family and the otherworldly mythos are nothing but punchlines. It’s difficult to get past the fact that the Templars, a race of militarized cyborg seraphim, look like refugees from the stable of villains on The Mighty Morphin Power Rangers—as does the hulking, purple-and-pink PG.

Does the conflict between PG’s amoral will to power of and the Templars’ fascistic pursuit of total order symbolize the impossible choice that children of divorce must make between warring parents? Structurally, perhaps, but not tonally. In its low-rent aesthetics, cynical characterizations, and downright goofy blood splatter, PG: Psycho Goreman gleefully negates the kinds of meaning we might expect from a story like this. The upside is that this denial of all values can be very fun, but the downside is that we’re left with a somewhat empty film.

Cast: Nita-Josee Hanna, Owen Myre, Matthew Ninaber, Steven Vlahos, Adam Brooks, Alexis Kara Hancey, Kristen MacCulloch, Scout Flint Director: Steven Kostanski Screenwriter: Steven Kostanski Distributor: RLJE Films Running Time: 99 min Rating: NR Year: 2020 Buy: Video

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