GORE IN THE STORE
IN CONVERSATION WITH STEVEN KOSTANSKI
Director Steven Kostanski’s (THE VOID, MANBORG, LEPRECHAUN RETURNS) sci-fi, horror, comedy PSYCHO GOREMAN, centres on siblings Mimi (Nita-Josee Hanna) and Luke (Owen Myre), who unwittingly resurrect an ancient alien overlord. Nicknaming him Psycho Goreman, PG for short, they discover they can control this tyrannical force, that once threatened to destroy universe with a magical amulet. Forced to abide by Mimi’s childish whims, PG’s presence soon draws the attention of allies and foes from across the galaxy. In small town America, the fate of the universe will be decided.
In conversation with FRIGHTFEST, Kostanski discussed discarding the “Harry Potter syndrome” of childhood innocence, the importance of humour to engage the audience, and having to live with the film he’s made.
FRIGHTFEST: 'What we are' versus 'who we feel we are' can often be out of synch. I've spoken with directors who say that it took a number of films before they felt they could call themselves a filmmaker. Do you feel that you can call yourself a filmmaker?
STEVEN KOSTANSKI: It's weird because there are different levels of “filmmaker.” After the first three days of shooting LEPRECHAUN RETURNS, and I know this is a weird call, but that was my first film where I had no support net. I wasn't making it in my parent’s garage, I wasn’t making it with a co-director who was bearing the brunt of the work, I was in Africa with a bunch of people I didn't know. I had an exec from Sci-Fi, Lionsgate and Blue Ice Pictures, the service producers all standing behind me while I was trying to direct this movie, and running out of time.
I was getting in there and getting my hands dirty, helping the effects team smear blood on stuff and throw intestines around. I remember at the end of those three days thinking, ‘I guess this is it. If I want to do this for a living, then this is what it's going to be.’ It was me biting and clawing my way to get a thing done, while the money men glare at me from across the room. It was a transformative moment for me as a filmmaker because at the time it felt like this is as good as it gets for me, Steven Kostanski, as a professional filmmaker.
On PG I came into my own as a filmmaker. Every film I make, I try to take the previous experiences and apply them to the next film. Even though this one didn't go perfectly by any stretch, and I definitely have my issues with the film, that's just a symptom of being a creative, in that you're never satisfied with your work.
PG is the purest distillation of the types of movies I want to be making, and I'm the most proud because what was in my head wound up on screen. I consider this the closest I've come to feeling like an actual director on a movie.
FF: What was the seed of the idea for PSYCHO GOREMAN, and what motivated you to tell this story?
SK: I'd met the financiers prior to making LEPRECHAUN RETURNS. They wanted to finance an indie movie and they were interested in working with me. They knew I could achieve a film on a low budget and they wanted me to go full steam Kostanski, and make a MANBORG movie, but with a little bit of money.
It was an exciting prospect and I had one script I was pushing on them initially. After making LEPRECHAUN, I realised it was too ambitious, so I went back to the drawing board. On PG I didn't get paid a whole lot, but because LEPRECHAUN was an actual directing job, it gave me a financial cushion. I had this buffer where I could pay the bills, and I could live and earn no money for a year and a half, so I decided to commit to making PG.
The story goes I was watching RAWHEAD REX and riffing on the idea of what if an evil monster like that was thrown into an E.T universe? You’d be mashing dark horror sci-fi, of this ancient being resurrected, with little kids going on an adventure. The opposition of those two genres was funny to me, so I wrote out a treatment and sent it off to the producers. I maybe thought they'd think it was shit, and I’d go back to the drawing board. Everyone loved it and were onboard with the conceit of having an evil monster be the E.T of the movie, and be evil all the way through. Having Mimi who was just as crazy as Psycho Goreman also appealed, and so it snowballed from there and it all happened very quickly. I shot LEPRECHAUN in the spring of 2018, and by the fall/winter of 2018 we were shooting PG.
FF: The humour is important in PSYCHO GOREMAN because it hooks our interest and keeps us engaged. What are your thoughts on humour as a tool to immerse the audience in a story?
SK: It’s a weird comparison to make to talk about STAR WARS and PG. but what has always stayed with me is how in THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK, Han Solo becomes the comic relief. What works about that is when at the end he gets frozen in carbonate, that dramatic moment hits hard.
One thing I've always carried with me is that humour builds characters and builds an attachment to characters. Even though they get very obnoxious during the course of PG, it makes you love them and connect with them. It subversively built a connection that you didn’t realise was there, and when you get to the climax you're invested in what's going on. If you're laughing, it makes the character resonate with you and makes you engaged in the story.