Psycho Beach Party Review

Psycho Beach Party (2000)


Starring: Lauren Ambrose,Thomas Gibson, Nicholas Brendon 
Directed by: Robert Lee King

The Premise

Florence "Chicklet" Forrest has a problem; specifically, dissociative identity disorder. With the help of the occasional stimuli, Chicklet becomes her alter ego, Ann Bowman, the promiscuous, foul-mouthed, take-no-shit, bad girl dominatrix. When her friends and acquaintances begin to turn up dead, suddenly she begins to wonder if her other self is responsible for the murders.


The First Stitches

The movie begins in black and white. A leather jacket clad man pulls into a pizzeria on his motorcycle. He storms in, looking for a woman named "Diane". After a bit of resistance from some guy in a smock, he finds her, behind a...box at the counter? The pour their feelings out to each other, he demands she kiss him. Smock guy pleads for the young man to leave, but catches a haymaker like he gave out the wrong change. Jacket guy tears down the box to find -- she has three heads!? He flees the pizzeria, screaming, just in time for the camera to pan away, showing it was only a movie at the drive-in theatre.

In common drive-in fashion, the first car depicts a couple making out. Next it pans to Florence and friend, Berdine (Lauren Ambrose and Danni Wheeler, respectively), as they discuss the social undertones of the movie, which has now somehow turned into a one-headed, 50-foot pizza waitress monster flick. Florence leaves to get them a hot dog when she runs into Swedish exchange student, Lars (Matt Keeslar) and snide, hateful Rhonda (Kathleen Robertson). Soon, Florence finally makes it to the hotdog stand and in the midst of of ordering, another woman walks up and immediately takes the clerk's attention. Suddenly, a flash of the "Snacks" sign causes Florence to blank out. Enter Ann Bowman...

"You talking about me, shit-for-brains?? Cut it."
Mending the Seams

Plot: The buffoonery that is this movie's script was nothing short of entertaining. In perfect 60's fashion, the characters beach jargon their way through a ridiculous whodunit-type adventure, complete with surfing, dancing and murder. Sweet, delicious murder. What makes the storyline to this movie so much fun is instead of relying purely on crude jokes and absurd amounts of blood, the humour is provided through a peppering of both subtle and blatant in-jokes, including a very awkward beach wrestling scene, gender juxtaposition and also there's that previously mentioned Rhonda...she's so hateful, it's actually kinda funny.
As the story progresses, the twists and turns common in any mystery movie definitely lead you in a direction that's about as brilliantly and subtly misleading as the plot to Sinister (I'm actually not joking about that, the climax to this movie was pretty good), yet still amusing.
Characters: Ultimately, I found all the characters likeable in their own jacked up ways, but some were pretty forgettable. There's no immediate antagonist in the film (I won't be spoiling this character's identity, either, if you've not seen it, you're safe), so we get to learn more about each character from Florence and her "issues" to Starcat (Nicholas Brendan) and his First World Problems. While not particularly joke-crackingly funny, Police Captain Monica Stark (writer Charles Busch) was also rather enjoyable, given the role of the character.

"We're not done here...keep reading."

Setting/Atmosphere: California beaches? Check. Lots of sun, waves and tiki torches? Check. Overly-entitled, beachcombing white kids with too much time on their hands? Check plus 1. The locale of this movie definitely screams the 50's down to the clothing, the diners and the groovy beach jargon. Seeing that the movie more plays into the comedy/mystery aspects of the story, there is little that actually makes the film scary in the classic horror sense.
Special Effects: There are a few scenes throughout the movie that display both practical and CG effects that reflect the 50's by way of plastic dismemberments and in-your-face 3D moments, which used to be rather common. There aren't a lot of special effects in this flick, but when they occur, they fit very well. No issues here.
Music/Audio: The soundtrack to this movie was definitely appropriate, down to a live surfer band at one point. There was even a feel of classic film in some of the tracks that harkened back to the days of movies like Psycho while keeping with the lighthearted motif.

The Binding Stitch

In my honest opinion, this movie is a pretty decent blend of comedy, horror and mystery. I'm not saying it's top notch in either category, but it definitely gives enough of each to be considered sufficient in staying all around entertaining. I recommend this flick as a good, light-hearted summertime horror when you're not in the mood for copious amounts of blood and gore or want something on the other side of the horror spoof spectrum that's not quite as in-your-face, much like the cult classics Scary Movie and Dead Alive.

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