‘Psycho Goreman’ Is a Wacky Homage to Campy Sci-Fi Monsters
February 3, 2021
When Mimi and her older brother Luke unearth an ancient alien overlord in their suburban backyard, they discover they can control him with the magic gem that has trapped him on Earth for eons. Mimi, something of an evil overlord herself, quickly takes charge, and forces their newly-named Psycho Goreman ("PG, for short") to endure all manner of indignities, like playing “Crazy Ball,” trying on thrift store outfits, and generally intimidating anyone Mimi doesn’t like. Soon enough, the aliens who’d originally entombed PG (played by Matthew Ninaber) on Earth realize he’s been awakened, and head to town to fight him for control of the galaxy — which means a showdown in quiet suburbia.
Written and directed by Steven Kostanski (The Void, The Divide, Father’s Day), PG: Psycho Goreman is a wacky, gory homage to '80s and '90s Saturday morning cartoons, Terminator 2’s kid-villain relationship, and Star Wars prequel-style galactic aliens thrown in for good measure. The B-movie is bizarre, oddball and quirky, and Mimi’s over-the-top characterization (played by Nita-Josee Hanna) is either entertaining or off-putting, depending on your frame of reference.
While PG: Psycho Goreman isn’t particularly tied to transformative character arcs (and deliberately pokes fun at the idea), Kostanski delivers what looks like a possible cult favorite, designed to showcase a host of offbeat aliens and monsters, tons of gore, snarky dialogue, and strange characters fighting over the fate of the galaxy.
As a creature effects artist, Kostanski went all out with this project, making monsters and aliens galore — all on a meager budget he and his crew made the most of. The total budget for the film overall was $850,000 CAD (about $670,000 USD), but only about $50,000 CAD went to creature effects . . . and considering what they pulled off, it’s remarkable. Kostanski estimates they were able to pull off about $500,000 CAD worth of effects on screen due to his and his crew's extensive experience — plus a ton of resourcefulness and creativity.
PG: Psycho Goreman came into being just after Kostanski finished working on Leprechaun Returns in early 2018. Back at home in Toronto, the filmmaker was relaxing and watching movies when he came up with the idea of “an evil alien warlord monster that befriends two kids and goes on adventures.” He banged out a treatment for the idea and ran it by a local financier who’d been looking for a project, and it was signed off on almost immediately — something Kostanski appreciates for its rarity, especially after the extensive pitching and marketing process he and executive producer Jeremy Gillespie went through to get The Void made a few years prior.
Despite the fact that Kostanski claims he doesn’t love the process of writing and tends to procrastinate “on a million different things,” he cranked out the script by mid-2018 and they were shooting the first key scenes that November. (The rest of the principle production happened in April 2019 after a break, which gave them extra time to work out kinks and ramp up their monster production.)
About his writing process, Kostanski says he tends to find ideas when he’s doing something else, like cleaning his apartment or getting groceries. “That's always when my brain decides to give me all the juicy ideas,” he says. From there, he creates individual Word documents filled with “nonsense ideas,” each connected to one core concept. He adds in ideas and notes as they come to him.
Then, he says, “once I think I've got enough, I’ll start to make a treatment in another Word document, where I think about how these things coalesce into a 90-minute movie, and start sorting out the major set pieces. I'm a very action-oriented filmmaker, so I'm always thinking in terms of action, what the spectacle is, what the trailer might look like, and build out from that.“
“Once I’ve got them arranged into something roughly resembling a story,” he says, “I’ll transfer it into Final Draft, start putting in scene headings, and think about breaking it down into more specifics, like a paragraph describing whatever the scene is.” That’s when he starts letting others look at it and advise him on the overall story. From there he’ll make “broad stroke tweaks” in the draft before going back to flesh it out with dialogue and more detail about what’s actually happening.
Despite it sounding like a relatively straightforward process, Kostanski laughs about how much time he spends NOT writing, including playing video games, watching YouTube, and doing other things that “eat his day” (sound familiar, writers?). But he also spends time on the visual aspects of his stories, sculpting, painting, and building his monsters. He makes maquettes (small preliminary models) of the creatures in his movies when he’s conceiving story ideas, because, in his words, “I like to visualize everything. . . . just words on a page are so uninteresting to me. I'm very much a visual person. And so even while I'm writing, I'll be noodling on a little sculpture of whatever the monster is, or one of the characters in the movie, just so that part of my brain can be working as well. So yeah, it's a bit of a slapdash process. It's certainly not the most efficient one, but I seem to get through it when I need to.”
For a project born from “recreating the deranged scenarios I used to make up while playing in the backyard as a kid,” Kostanski has clearly had a ton of fun making the most of his unusual skill set and bringing a bizarrely creative story to life.
PG: Psycho Goreman released on January 22, 2021 in theaters, on demand, and digital.
Catch the trailer here: https://youtu.be/L4tizc0IAVQ
Images courtesy of RLJE Films.
Written by: Jenna AveryJenna Avery is a screenwriter who specializes in sci-fi action and space fantasy, and her most recent project is a post-apocalyptic coming-of-age story for a Canadian producer-director. Jenna is also a writing coach and the founder of Called to Write, where she has helped hundreds of writers overcome procrastination, perfectionism, and resistance so they can get their writing onto the page and into the world where it belongs. Jenna writes about writing and fulfilling your creative calling at calledtowrite.com, writes for ScriptMag and Final Draft, and teaches at Script University. Download Jenna’s free guidebooks for writers, including “How to Choose Your Next Book (or Script!)” when you join her mailing list at https://www.calledtowrite.com/mailing-list