By SEAN PLUMMER
It couldn’t have been more than a few minutes after finishing the online PSYCHO GOREMAN screener I watched in preparation for interviewing writer-director-monster maker Steven Kostanski that I turned to my wife and told her that I had found our next family move night classic. Granted, our family is a little odd – she’s a self-proclaimed witch, I’m a horror journalist, and my twin stepdaughters are artists who specialize in dragons and mushroom creatures respectively – so our choice of viewing doesn’t run towards Disney.
Which was why I literally yelled out ‘YES!!!’ when my review copy of the PSYCHO GOREMAN Blu-ray arrived.
You (hopefully) know about the film by now: an evil alien warlord in unearthed by brother and sister Luke and Mimi whose possession of an ancient gem lets the little girl control the creature she dubs Psycho Goreman (“or P.G. for short”). Mayhem, carnage and hilarity ensue as P.G.’s captors and allies descend on the kids’ hometown to find the so-called Archduke of Nightmares.
If you haven’t, buy or stream it now. I’ll wait.
Amazing right? The Blu-ray extends that awesomeness through a series of featurettes that explain how the film was made (hint: cheap and fast), including the creatures, fights, and music. There are also informative and not boring interviews with everyone involved, including one-on-ones with Kostanski and his fellow Astron-6 creative Adam Brooks (the latter of whom is interviewed by a stuffed panda puppet).
Kostanski’s commentary track is also a gem, as he outlines everything you want to know, including the film’s roots, production, and special effects. He delivers a fun, self-deprecating and witty monologue that’s just as entertaining as the film.
Q&A WITH PSYCHO GOREMAN DIRECTOR STEVEN KOSTANKI
My stepdaughters love films for adults now but freaked when we showed them Aliens’ chestburster scene too young. How important is showing kids adult genre films to spark their imagination?
That image will probably stay with them because it’s very traumatizing. We all had those moments as kids watching a thing that really got to us and kept us up at night, but I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing. That is a fun and interesting way to introduce kids to the horrors of reality. They’re going to have their whole life to experience the miserable moments of real life. At least early on you can frame some of it so it gives them a more fun way to inform those sensibilities. For me it was a way to come to terms with the idea of eventually dying and starting to wrap my brain around it at an early age in a way that a kid could understand. I don’t think it’s a bad experience for kids to be exposed to those things early. I mean obviously there are limits. I wouldn’t show a kid I Spit On Your Grave or anything! I was lucky in that my parents would show me stuff that they had at least screened prior so was a good movie at least. Like, they were fine with me watching the Aliens movies because Alien and Aliens are really important works of cinema; really well-crafted movies. Even if I was a little shocked by that, it’s still good storytelling.
Mimi and Luke aren’t particularly afraid of Psycho Goreman, unlike the adults in the film. Would you have liked to have had a friend like PG as a kid?
That was part of the inspiration for the movie: basically the John Connor/T2 relationship. I feel like every kid growing up in the ’90s wanted that. The idea of having a murder machine as your bodyguard, it was very appealing. That’s why the kids aren’t super fazed by him. As a kid if you had Megatron or Skeletor or Cobra Commander as your pal – Darth Vader even – that would be wicked. You would not be concerned with the violent consequences of that. ‘Look at this cool dude I get to hang out with!’
Your star Nita Josee-Hanna is hilarious but also kind of terrifying as Mimi.
The whole intention with that character was to have a little girl protagonist that could stand up to PG and act as parallel to him. So that was really the challenge in the casting, to find somebody who could mirror him, and we really lucked out with Nita. It’s a character that walks a very fine line of being charming and annoying, and I think Nita does it very well.
Does the relationship between Luke and Mimi mirror your own sibling relationships?
Yeah. I’ve got an older brother and we’ve definitely given each other a lot of shit over the years. That brother-sister relationship in the movie, I feel like it draws parallels to multiple relationships in my life, not just the one with my brother. I find I’m very much the Luke in a lot of scenarios. That’s just me putting that on screen what it’s like to be a doormat for a living.
You cleverly poke fun at the idea that people are the real monsters, which is a horror movie cliché. How important was it to introduce the idea that kids are kind of scary?
That was an idea that I found super interesting early in the writing process, was that you put PG and Mimi next to each other and they share a similarity in that they each exist in their own universe with their own set of rules. And I feel very much like that’s what being a kid is like, where you don’t fully understand how the world works and what consequences even are. All of that is so abstract that you just live a cartoony existence. And that’s what I found was missing from a lot of media that featured kids was this Harry Potter syndrome of they’re just being kind of wide-eyed audience proxies that don’t actually do much of anything and don’t have a ton of agency. They’re super innocent and things are just happening to them. But I feel with my experience growing up as a kid and just my interactions with kids in my life, kids can be little maniacs and I want to see that onscreen. That’s why I pushed Mimi in that direction because kids are crazy and super entertaining to watch
The film takes place in Spengler Springs, which is a Ghostbusters tribute. How fun is it to put those little homages into the film?
That stuff is just so baked into my subconscious at this point that I can’t help it. Nearly everything comes from somewhere, and my whole personality, my whole existence is built on a stack of old VHS tapes that I can’t escape making little references. I just love taking things and putting twists on them. I’ve turned the moviemaking experience into my movie-watching experience of commenting when I’m watching movies. I’m like ‘Well, what if this happened? What if this was like this instead?’ Except I’m doing it with my own movies now and making references as I’m watching them and tweaking the narrative so it becomes you’re not just watching a Steve Kostanski movie, you’re watching Steve watch his own movie. And I feel that extra layer is super fun.
I even get ahead of my own criticisms by drawing attention to things that don’t make sense and leaning into it as much as possible, just to make stuff extra silly and nonsensical. A good example is the gem in the movie; the MacGuffin of the story is this magical gem. Makes no sense. There is no logic to it. I just want the longest IMDb ‘Goofs’ list imaginable.
Psycho Goreman himself is a great monster. What were the big challenges to making that character work physically onscreen?
It was all casting, and we really lucked out with Matt Ninaber. He had never done creature performance before. I warned him it was going to be a nightmare but he was still game for doing it. And it was a punishing experience but he really delivered. It’s a hard thing to act in a creature suit, and it’s even harder to act in a creature suit after 12 hours. You really have to be conscious of your stamina throughout the day and conserving your energy where possible. It’s very easy to burn out. You kind of have to act twice as hard under prosthetics to push the performance through the foam and silicon and whatever you’re buried under. Matt threw everything he had at it, and I feel bad for a lot of what we put him through. There were a lot of long days stuck in that suit but he really turned in a great performance, and his physicality is so much of what PG is. He’s doing so much stuff even when he’s not the center-point of a scene. He developed so many mannerisms as shooting progressed that were super fun and charming.
Matthew is menacing as PG but he also manages to make him sympathetic. How important was it to make PG be likeable as well as terrifying?
He is ultimately the protagonist of the movie and I wanted to feel that journey. One of my favourite things to do with a character is to build them up as a super-intense threat and then undercut them by showing them to be super vulnerable and kind of bouncing back and forth between that, and Matt did a good job of injecting some humanity into PG. He was able to balance being terrifying and pathetic really well.
In other interviews I’ve heard you credit the childlike part of your brain for a lot of your creativity. How important has your inner child, for lack of a better term, been to your ability to make monsters and come up with crazy stuff?
I have no specific process. I just write a lot of notes. I’ve got notebooks and notes on my phone, on my computers, of just random stuff that pops into my head. It’s also just a lot of things that I just physically make. I’ll just sculpt a thing because it pops into my head.
I feel like being in tune with childlike sensibilities is important because it’s the most honest perspective on things. I don’t find the more cynical perspectives of adulthood particularly interesting. My imagination tends to dwell on more fantastical things; the wonder of the unknown. I find it hard to be excited by that stuff when you’re approaching as an adult. You’re just so beat down by the reality around you. Keep your inner child alive because it’s the most honest and wholesome perspective on life that you can have.
Psycho Goreman is now available on Blu-ray/DVD from Raven Banner Entertainment. Grab the limited “Hunky Boy” Ultimate Edition while it lasts!