It would be hard to overstate how bummed I was by the dissolution of Astron-6 in 2019.
The Canadian film collective responsible for FATHER’S DAY, MANBORG and THE EDITOR (along with a slew of bizarre/hilarious short films) had been a consistent source of uniquely transgressive horror and exploitation since their founding in 2007, and despite a predictable lack of support from theatrical distributors they developed a strong cult following among those who appreciated their depraved sense of humor and low-budget ingenuity.
While (now former) Astron-6 member Steven Kostanski has been busy in the world of makeup effects, his directorial work has mostly moved away from the gloriously cheap thrills on which he cut his teeth, instead expanding his horizons with higher budgets and slicker production values. But for fans of Astron-6, his latest feature PSYCHO GOREMAN finds Kostanski finding a perfect balance of wild visuals, dark comedy and — perhaps surprisingly — heart that makes for superlatively satisfying viewing.
It’s a wonderful concept. A young girl (the excellent Nita-Josee Hanna) and her brother accidentally unleash a genocidal alien while playing in their backyard, but because she has control over the gem that sealed the creature’s prison, he’s required to follow her every command. Treating him like a puppy that followed her home, she gives him the over-the-top moniker of Psycho Goreman (PG for short), and soon he’s playing drums in their garage band, donning shades and accompanying the pair on various adventures — all while threatening the destruction of the planet if he ever gets his hand on the gem. It plays out like a particularly demented remake of E.T. mixed with the extreme gore (and humor) of early Peter Jackson, with a tinge of the excessive rubber monster mayhem of Steve Wang and Screaming Mad George’s adaptation of THE GUYVER.
And it’s funny. Really funny. I was laughing out loud throughout. Particularly at some of the more gruesome gags, such as a police officer turned into an undead automaton (with incredibly dangerous loaded gun). Much credit for making this mixture of gore and gags work has to go to the performances, particularly Hanna as the young Mimi, who carries the film on her tiny shoulders, and Astron-6 alumni Adam Brooks as her father Greg. He’s a particularly silly (and lazy) character, but Brooks manages to imbue him with some surprising earnestness. And PG himself makes for an impressive technical achievement, with the combination of Matthew Ninaber’s physicality and the vocals of Steven Vlahos effectively making the creature both intimidating and — perhaps oddly, considering his genocidal intentions — sympathetic.
But don’t worry: if you’re here solely for monster mayhem, PG more than delivers. Kostanski must have emptied out his creature design notebook for this one, as there are scores of distinct, outlandish aliens on display, with some visual homages to other famous creatures from film and television history. Unsurprisingly considering the director’s background, the film exists as celebration of physical, tactile effects work, and that includes plenty of excessive violence on display. The film delights in watching heads severed, flesh rendered and limbs torn off, though that should hardly be a surprise considering you’re watching a film called PSYCHO GOREMAN.
Though Canada has become a home for ultra-violent horror comedies over the past decade with films like WOLFCOP, TURBO KID and Astron-6’s previous work, PSYCHO GOREMAN is the most successful yet at balancing excessive gore with big laughs. While Astron-6 may be no more, its gonzo spirit lives on in the work of its alumni, and PG proves that the future of genre filmmaking in the great white north is looking very bright indeed.