Before We Vanish by Chris Mello Film

PG: Psycho Goreman | Steven Kostanski

RLJE Films

Psycho Goreman offers undeniably impressive practical effects and exactly nothing else.


In director Steven Kostanski’s Psycho Goreman, two children — brother and sister — dig up an evil alien beefcake hellbent on destroying the universe. Thankfully, he’s also easily controlled with the help of the magical amulet with which he was buried. Together, the three of them go on wacky, lightly comic adventures and fight the aliens who want to kill their alien, all while the kids learn to love each other despite their differences. Obviously, Psycho Goreman, FKA The Archduke of Nightmares, learns about love too. To say there’s not much here would be an understatement.

If there’s anything in the film that merits praise, it’s the practical VFX work. In fact, the whole thing reads as an excuse to show off the effects team’s prowess at making monsters that look like Power Rangers villains and then tearing them apart, limb from limb. And while the artistry doesn’t match the heights of Savini or Baker, it is sturdy, charming, and genuinely impressive for a project that feels this small. The bigger problem is that this feeling of slightness seems to stem less from budgetary concerns than filmmaking that is amateurish and mostly passionless. Is it so much to ask that a science fiction movie about an alien killing machine have even one memorable image? It must be, because all that aforementioned limb-tearing is set against the listless backdrop of suburbia and framed in shots devoid of personality or purpose. It’s hard for viewers to give a shit about everything that surrounds the effects work precisely because the movie itself doesn’t seem to. It’s little more than a thin, grating excuse to show off some make-up and rattle off references to things the filmmakers enjoy, which is just the same stuff made from 1980 to 1999 to which homage has become a cottage industry. The difference between homage like this, then, and the genuine article is not just the spark of invention, but also work beyond baseline competence and a concern for more than just prosthetics. Exhibit A: Dawn of the Dead features all-time work from Tom Savini and would certainly be lesser if it didn’t, but there’s plenty of substance beyond that to suggest it would likely remain a classic. Strip Psycho Goreman of its effects and you’re left with nothing of value.


Published as part of Before We Vanish | January 2021.

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