A devil of a time

Two teenagers discover a powerful alien who aims to conquer the world in Psycho Goreman

Comedy/horror/science fiction, not rated, 99 minutes, Comcast, DirecTV, Dish, Hulu, Amazon Prime, 3 chiles

In a suburb reminiscent of another decade, two kids unearth an imprisoned alien that is intent on conquering the universe. Where did they find him? Buried in the backyard.

Oops.

There are plenty of details to share (he’s from the planet Gigax and has been imprisoned by a race called the Templars, etc.), but the specifics are sort of beside the point in this film by writer and director Steve Kostanski. Like Gremlins (1984) and Beetlejuice (1988), which are both classic, family-friendly fantasies of the 1980s, Kostanski’s hoping to create a cheeky sci-fi horror mash-up. He mostly achieves that. It’s a lot of fun if you don’t take it seriously, and it practically demands that you don’t.

Nicknamed Psycho Goreman (or PG for short) by Mimi (Nita-Josee Hanna, giving the role a lot of spunk), and Luke (Owen Myre), the hulking creature they unleash is powerful and scary, effortlessly severing the heads of a gang of street criminals with a squeeze of his hands. He also has the power to suspend people in eternal states of physical pain using his magical powers.

Things aren’t so easy, though, when you’re working with kids. “Noooo,” cries Goreman (Matthew Ninaber), when one accidentally shatters a victim of his magic stasis. “He was my masterpiece!”

Goreman, who looks a bit like a Halloween craft project, is prepared to crush anyone in his path, but Mimi has the ultimate carte blanche for childish mayhem: a device that allows them to control PG and his less-than-friendly intentions. Not surprisingly, Goreman simmers with rage (and resignation) as he waits for his chance to turn the tables.

What’s worse, it isn’t long before Mimi consigns him to do her bidding, using him to harmlessly torment her brother, just for kicks, and showing him off to her schoolyard crush. (Mimi is the braver of the two kids, but she’s also a bully. Luke is under constant threat of her punches and meekly follows her lead.)

Waiting in the wings, however, are the alien forces who exiled and neutralized Goreman. A gaggle of imaginatively conceived creatures of various shapes and sizes (one of them is little more than a skeletal head with bulging eyes on a robot’s body), the Templars believe that they’re innately superior to everyone. And their leader, of course, is mad with power. These would-be saviors of the universe are now the aggressors, and they’re on their way to Earth to put an end to Goreman once and for all.

Mimi and Luke’s clueless but well-meaning parents are mostly around for comic relief, until their dysfunctional family dynamic becomes a focal point of the movie’s plot. Whether Goreman will resume his murderous ways once he’s set free from Mimi’s control is the real question, as well as whether we, as horror fans, really want him to.

Fortunately, Kostanski’s script doesn’t toy with viewers’ emotions too much. Goreman’s essential character remains unchanged, even if he does eventually learn the meaning of love.

Surprisingly, though, Psycho Goreman also veers into graphic depictions of violence and adult language. Some may rejoice at its irreverence, but this one’s not for kids, despite featuring children in lead roles. Also at issue is the children’s indifference to Goreman’s acts of cruelty and an unnecessary scene late in the film that is sure to turn off Christians. We still want our villains to be villains, and Kostanski understands that.

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