Published Jan 20, 2021In her 1964 essay Notes on 'Camp', Susan Sontag says of camp that it is "the love of the exaggerated." In other words, what is campy isn't necessarily beautiful, but it is artificed. Emphasizing form over content, a work of camp is very intentionally wrought.
By this logic, Steven Kostanski's Psycho Goreman is the camp lover's dream. About as chaotic as a fever dream, Psycho Goreman shows us what it would be like if Louise Belcher were in Hellraiser. Though the movie does smuggle in a cute story about a sister and brother, this doesn't blunt the bite of the film's ironic self-awareness and frivolity.
Helmed by Canadian director Kostanski — a member of the dissolved Astron-6 film collective — Psycho Goreman opens with Mimi (Nita-Josee Hanna) and her brother Luke (Owen Myer) playing a nonsensical game of Crazy Ball. The game ends with Luke losing and digging a hole in their backyard for his burial while Mimi figures out what she'll do with Luke's room. While digging, Luke unearths a gem that has kept a monster (Matthew Ninaber) locked up for years. Mimi — miraculously, of course — figures out the code to retrieve the gem, along with the power to control the monster.
Every monster needs a sinister name, and so Mimi and Luke name their monster Psycho Goreman — PG for short — and use him to do whatever they want. It turns out, however, that the monster had been serving a sort of prison sentence for being just awful and now wants to reassemble his army and continue destroying worlds. Mimi is in his way, but PG can't really do anything about it as she has the gem, and most importantly, she's stubborn to the point of being dictatorial. Meanwhile, an intergalactic committee of leaders learns that PG has been awakened and needs to be dealt with, so ruthless member Pandora (Kristen MacCulloch) volunteers to go down to Earth and destroy PG. What follows are various battles of wit and literal battles, as PG works to regain his freedom.
Mimi is a force to be reckoned with, and not in a girl-bossy way, either. It's not just that nobody can tell Mimi what to do — nobody wants to tell her what to do. She only does what she wants to do and what's in her best interests. Honestly, Mimi is an asshole of a kid, especially to her brother, Luke, who becomes increasingly distanced. PG doesn't really care that Mimi is a dick — he just does as he's told because he doesn't have much choice, though he does make attempts at the gem so as to regain his free will. Hanna is good as Mimi, who's fallible and cute and clumsy (in the way that kids are), but also iron-willed, (in the way that most kids wish they could be) and scary (in the way that most kids don't want to be). All other performances are overshadowed — not only by Hanna's larger than life portrayal of Mimi, but also by the wonderfully-designed monsters.
Peppered throughout the tale is a story of alien-robot creatures colonizing other planets, hunky men's magazines, and monsters eating other monsters. But all this content, though certainly a part of the movie, is beside the point in Psycho Goreman. The point, precisely, is the form and aesthetic of the film, so one is led to wonder why the plot is so jam-packed with minute events and a wealth of characters. In other words, the story would have been better off if it told a more straightforward tale, perhaps one focusing with greater exclusivity on Mimi and Luke, as opposed to concerning itself with so many events simultaneously. But, perhaps, this is what makes it such campy fun.
That being said, this movie is a blast. The monsters are well designed, the gore and guts squelch, the blood oozes and looks straight out of an '80s horror movie, and the music is deliciously overwrought and melodramatic. Fight scenes are well choreographed, violent, and hilariously juxtaposed with saccharine revelations of love and togetherness. All the film's nostalgic stylistic elements come together to entertain in a way that will make you forget that the morality of the film is questionable. As you delight in the brilliantly over-the-top creature design and special effects, you'll forget to wonder about who exactly the good guys are. But ultimately that doesn't matter, because this movie knows what it's doing, this movie knows it's camp.
The film is available to rent.