Originally performed on the stage, Psycho Beach Party is the story of a teenage girl who wants desperately to surf. It's also the story of a female cop who used to be a man. And some homoerotic surfers. And a beautiful movie star who's hiding from Hollywood. And an alcoholic mother with no grasp of the present. And a psychotic killer who hacks people up for their imperfections. And it all takes place at Malibu Beach in 1962.
Visually resplendent and constantly hilarious, this film has all the makings of a teen cult favorite. Combining the setting concepts of production designer Franco-Giacomo Carbone and the costuming of Camille Jumelle with the romping weirdness of an absolutely bizarre cast, Psycho Beach Party is a hilarious revelation of the pervasive neuroses welling up within the generation it represents.
Deftly acted to a sprightly, refined camp under the direction of Robert Lee King (Boys Life, The Disco Years), the entire cast deserves kudos. Particularly noteworthy is Lauren Ambrose (In & Out, Can't Hardly Wait) as Chicklet, the 16-year-old tomboy around whom the film's drama revolves. Through Ambrose's performance, Chicklet comes off like a psychotropic Gidget, the sort of girl the word "spunk" might seem to have been invented for. Her sudden, schizophrenic shifts from one personality to another are refreshingly ridiculous, riding a thin wire of sincerity and self-mockery one seldom sees in celluloid.
Thomas Gibson (ABC's Dharma & Greg) is funny in his role as surf-guru Kanaka, but often appears to be left out of the joke. Fortunately, the rest of the cast appears to get it and keeps the story rolling through a cavalcade of dorky music, lame plot twists, and insanely bad special effects. This is a movie you can laugh both with and at.
Charles Busch's role as Captain Monica Stark is funny and self-effacing. Australian beauty Kimberly Davies (The Next Best Thing) gives a performance evoking Gilligan's Island's Ginger as B-movie starlet-in-hiding Bettina. And keep and eye out for Splendor's Kathleen Robertson as Rhonda the wheelchair-bound psychobitch.
This movie is everything it sets out to be. Go for the cheap thrills; stay for the surprise ending.
Run time: 95 mins
In Theaters: Saturday 1st September 2001
Distributed by: Strand Releasing
Production compaines: New Oz Productions, Red Horse Films
Contactmusic.com: 4.5 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 53%
Fresh: 17 Rotten: 15
IMDB: 6.3 / 10
Director: Robert Lee King
Screenwriter: Charles Busch
Starring: Lauren Ambrose as Florence 'Chicklet' Forrest, Nicholas Brendon as Starcat, Amy Adams as Marvel Ann, Charles Busch as Captain Monica Stark, Thomas Gibson as Kanaka, Matt Keeslar as Lars / Larry, Beth Broderick as Mrs. Ruth Forrest, Kathleen Robertson as Rhonda
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