REVIEW: Psycho Goreman (2020)

dir. Steven Kostanski.

As the opening text crawl explains – complete with ominous voiceover – an ancient evil was defeated long ago and entombed in a subterranean chamber beneath the surface of the Earth. This destroyer of worlds, if unleashed, would threaten to raze entire galaxies under his corrupt reign. So when two kids dig him up in their backyard, nickname him “Psycho Goreman” (or “PG” for short) and adopt him as their own personal monster, things are set to get pretty wild.

There’s a great tradition of 80s trash films unashamedly embracing their schlocky setups: with no aspirations for high-mindedness they submitted fully to the purity of their premises, and in doing so were a blast. Goreman grows explicitly out of this nostalgic soil, from the cosmic prelude recalling Critters to the kids-and-a-monster riff begotten from countless Amblin imitators such as The Monster Squad, it unfolds as a love-letter to the VHS era of horror movie rentals.

Kostanski – probably best known for his Barker / Carpenter / Fulci homage The Void – shows an admirable command of this well-established blueprint, offsetting the light with a double dose of nastiness which fans of his previous work will appreciate. The tone then is best described as joyously exploitative, so even whilst Goreman is melting faces or transforming unfortunates into huge gelatinous brains the film’s tongue is so firmly in its cheek so as to be protruding out of the other side.

A large part of the success here is down to the marriage of outlandish violence – a promise from the title that is amply fulfilled – with the performances by Matthew Ninaber and Steven Vlahos as Goreman himself (being his body and voice respectively). The instantly quotable dialogue, deadpan deliveries and soon-to-be-iconic costume design combine to make PG an immediate icon, with fans destined to imitate him for years (indeed the official Goreman store already boasts licenced merch from t-shirts to action figures and drinks glasses, a marketing move reminiscent of Freddy Krueger’s popularised hey-day).

Having said all that Goreman as a film never fully lives up to its potential: some of the performances grate, and though the splatter is fun it could have been sweetened by leaning further into the charm. But for anyone who grew up on practical effects, rubber-creatures and over-the-top bloodletting there’s still much to enjoy, PG offering a welcomed throwback to simpler, gorier times.

Tim Coleman

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