Psycho Beach Party (2000)
By: Craig Villinger  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
Magna Pacific (Australia). Region 4, PAL. 1.85:1 (16:9 enhanced). English DD 5.1. 84 Minutes
The Movie
Director: Robert Lee King Starring: Lauren Ambrose, Thomas Gibson, Kimberley Davies, Nicholas Brendon, Charles Busch, Matt Kesslar, Andrew Levitas, Nick Cornish, Kathleen Robertson, Danni Wheeler, Amy Adams, Beth Broderick
Screenplay: Charles Busch
Music: Ben Vaughn
Tagline: Party 'till you drop... dead. Quote: "A surfer chick with a split personality. That's the greatest story idea I've heard in years!"
If you have longed for a motion picture that mixes the camp fun of 60's surfing movies with a touch of 80's slasher film (and who hasn't?), then Psycho Beach Party is the answer to your prayers!

Lauren Ambrose stars as Chicklet, a nerdy tomboy who wants nothing more than to ride the waves of Malibu Beach with the local surfer crowd. After encountering some initial resentment ("No minnows in the shark tank") she eventually manages to convince surfing guru "The Great Kanaka" (Gibson) to take her under his wing, and is quickly hanging ten with the guys like a natural. Unfortunately there also happens to be a killer on the loose who seems to be habitually slicing up young teens with various abnormalities (A girl with a hair lip is first to go, and another of the victims has only one nut in the sack), and when it is discovered that Chicklet suffers from a strange multiple personality disorder that sees her take on the form of a sex crazed dominatrix by the name of Anne Bowman, she naturally becomes the prime suspect. Of course there are plenty of other likely candidates, and many of the locals, including Chicklet's mother (Beth Broderick), Swedish exchange student Lars, B-Grade scream queen on hiatus Bettina Barnes, and The Great Kanaka himself come under the scrutiny of Captain Monika Stark, a hard nosed cop who intends to catch the killer before the sea side towns youth population is decimated completely.

Psycho Beach Party originally started out as an off-Broadway play in 1987 with creator Charles Busch (who adapted the screenplay himself) playing the lead of role of Chicklet in drag. For the film version however the creators have wisely chosen to cast an actual female for the role, although Busch does get to indulge in a spot of cross dressing for his performance as Captain Monika Stark, which does add a nice touch to the film. Acting performances all round are quite good, and the cast, which includes numerous television stars such as Dharma and Greg's Thomas Gibson and Buffy the Vampire Slayer's Nicholas Brendon seem to be having a great time here. Lauren Ambrose handles her multiple personalities with style, and former Neighbours sex kitten Kimberly Davies seems to be in her element hamming it up as scream queen Bettina Barnes. Sabrina the Teenage Witch star Beth Broderick is one of the real highlights of the film as Chicklet's mother, managing to steal almost every scene she is in and also delivering some of the best one-liners.

Director Robert Lee King is best known for his work on the gay themed films Boy's Life and The Disco Years. While Psycho Beach Party is certainly far more "straight" than his previous efforts, he has still managed to work in a very strong homo-erotic subtext which is most noticeable with the characters Provoloney and Yo Yo, whose constant displays of machismo in the form of manly wrestling bouts are their own way of dealing with the "unusual feelings" that they have for each other. There are plenty of buff, bronzed bodies on display here, but thankfully King has also included plenty of sexy bikini clad women to provide eye candy for all persuasions.Charles Busch's screenplay is peppered with great dialogue and his jokes seem to hit the mark more often than not. Much piss is taken out of the sixties lifestyle, especially with regards to teenagers views on sex and the role of women in society (when exchange student Lars attempts to do his laundry, Chicklet's mother replies "Leave that to me Lars, that's women's work") and the over-the-top ending manages to send up a much clichéd style of horror film finale that we all know and loathe so much, and then ups the ante even further.

If it is horror and nothing else that you are after, then Psycho Beach Party may leave you feeling a little unfulfilled. The horror aspect of the movie is actually quite minimal with all the killings occurring off screen, and the gore is provided more for a comical effect rather than for shock value. Still, there is plenty of enjoyment value here for those who are looking for a bit of "no brainer" entertainment. The film has an almost infectious sense of fun throughout, and the non discerning viewer should be pleasantly surprised with this enjoyable slice of retro entertainment.
Psycho Beach Party has been transferred to DVD in a 1.85:1 aspect ratio with 16x9 enhancement. The quality seems to vary throughout the film, although the image is generally not as sharp as one would like, and there are some minor signs of print damage which is surprising for such a recent production. Colours are fairly drab and the image appears to be somewhat dark at times, but this was possibly the directors intention. I would have described the transfer quality as acceptable had it not been for one thing - A flickering white line across the bottom of the screen that was present at numerous intervals throughout the movie. This proved to an extremely annoying and distracting artefact, and while this may seem a little harsh, I'm frankly amazed that Magna Pacific would unleash this disc upon the public with such a glaringly obvious fault. It should be noted that after switching my player to 16:9 mode the white line was not evident, so widescreen television owners may be spared this annoyance. Still, there is plenty of room for improvement in the image department.
Psycho Beach Party is loaded with groovy surf tunes that will have Pulp Fiction aficionados creaming in their strides, and the 5.1 channel mix does great justice to the soundtrack. Dialogue never gets lost in the mix with great clarity throughout, and although the audio track sounds a little flat a times, there is not much to complain about here.
Extra Features
A theatrical trailer, cast and crew bios and production notes.
The Verdict
More extras and less artefacts would have made this disc a guaranteed winner. As it stands, the film is entertaining enough to warrant a purchase, although there is perhaps a better DVD release floating around in some part of the world.
Movie Score
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