It’s hard to believe that Psycho Beach Party is 15 years old and it came out when I was still in college. I remember when I first heard about this indie film that was part 50s psychodrama, part 60s beach movie, and part 80s slasher film. I was instantly intrigued and saw it as soon as I could. Now, 15 years later I’ve sat down and watched it again as it’s been released on Blu-ray. Does it hold up?
Thankfully the answer is yes, yes it does. Psycho Beach Party is just as fun now as it was when it was originally released.
The heroine of the story is Florence Forrest (Lauren Ambrose) or Chicklet to her surfer friends. She’s a young high schooler who isn’t quite into guys yet. However, she begins having blackouts where she becomes Anne Bowman, a strong willed sassy young woman. Chicklet is trying to ingratiate herself in with the surfer guys so they’ll teach her how, but they think she’s a total square. That is until the head surfer, Kanaka (Thomas Gibson) takes her under her wing. See, Kanaka is really into Anne, and is trying to figure out how to bring her out more often. One of the surfer’s, Starcat (Nicholas Brendon) is really into Marvel Ann (Amy Adams) at first, but begins to see something in Chicklet.
Meanwhile a series of murders is taking place in their beach community. First a girl that the drive-in gets her throat slit, then one of the surfers gets chopped up into little pieces. Captain Monica Stark (Charles Busch) is investigating the murders, but everyone seems to be a suspect!
Meshing the three genres mentioned above, Psycho Beach Party is a very fun film. It is very much an homage to all three, though, it’s not as gory as most 80s slasher films. There is some gore in the movie, but it’s mostly pretty harmless and funny.
Watching the film now, it makes it seem very ahead of it’s time, to the point where it feels like it could have been released this year instead of 15 years ago. The biggest giveaway being the very young Amy Adams whose role is much smaller that it would be were the film made today.
First off there is Charles Busch (writer of the script and the original play on which the film is based) playing a woman cop. Drag Queens weren’t nearly as common place as they are today and to see one in a role like this is pretty cool. The other thing is the development of the gay relationship between two of the surfers. In the beginning they both come off as very stereotypically straight, but as the film goes on, it quickly becomes apparent that these two guys are in love with each other, even if they can’t process it themselves. The way the relationship develops often plays for laughs, but at the same times seems like it was written very sincerely.
Being that the film is an homage to three bygone eras, the acting isn’t the greatest, but it’s obviously very intentional. Everyone is playing like they are, in fact, in a 60s beach movie, so the over acting is actually on point. Ambrose does a wonderful job playing a character with multiple personalities. Each of her personalities is very distinctly different and towards the end when she starts jumping from one to the other then back again, she makes the transition perfectly.
If you’re a fan of the genres this film plays homage to, then you are sure to love this movie. It reaches a perfect level of campiness, without being over done. The joke doesn’t get tired, and the characters are fun and interesting enough that you want to see what’s going to happen to them as the body count gets hire and hire.
The film is presented in widescreen format and 5.1 DTS-HD MA. The film looks and sounds better than it ever has. The rocking surf sounds of Los Straightjackets is perfectly preserved.
There is audio commentary with Director Robert Lee King and writer Charles Busch.
I loved this movie 15 years ago and I still love it today. This is a very fun film. If you haven’t seen it, then you should add it to your Halloween viewing list and if you have seen it, then it’s high time you revisited it.
Strand Releasing presents Psycho Beach Party. Written by Charles Busch. Directed by: Robert Lee King. Starring: Lauren Ambrose, Thomas Gibson, Nicholas Brendon, Charles Busch and Amy Adams. Running time: 95 min. Rating: Not Rated, but contains violence, gore, vulgar language and adult themes. Released on DVD: August 18, 2015.