Psycho Beach Party

Directed by Robert Lee King
Starring: Lauren Ambrose, Thomas Gibson, Nicholas Brendon, Kimberley Davies, Beth Broderick, Matt Keeslar, Charles Busch.
MPAA Rating: Not Rated (contains brief nudity, sexual content, and strong language)

Review by Matt Heffernan <matt@filmhead.com>
August 10, 2000

Psycho Beach Party is such a perfect title, it's a wonder that nobody thought of it for a film until now. Leave it to Charles Busch, who first wrote a play with that title, and has now adapted it to the screen. As you may have guessed, it involves a beach and a lot of killing. Let's take a look:

Florence Forrest (Lauren Ambrose) is 16, but she hasn't really developed like other girls her age. Boys just don't seem to excite her, and she gets no attention at all. She meets some surfers, and wants to learn how to surf, but they tell her that girls can't surf. She goes to surf guru Kanaka (Thomas Gibson) for lessons. He obliges, and soon she is fitting in with the beach crowd.

Wait a second, did I forget to mention the murders? Silly me. It seems that whenever Florence sees circles, she goes into a psychotic spell, takes on a different personality, and then somebody ends up getting killed. However, it isn't exactly clear who the actual killer is, since we only see the victims. Captain Monica Stark (Busch, in drag) is on the case and sees the connection, but can't seem to discover the perpetrator.

Mercifully, Psycho Beach Party is a spoof, so logic can be freely thrown out the door. The audience is also spared the violence and gore of the films it is satirizing. It sometimes works, in a twisted, goofy sort of way, but Busch should have known that writing a spoof is harder than it looks.

Much of the humor is based in double entendre, which gets old very fast. The level of sophistication is not that far above those ubiquitous porn films that are named after legitimate films, like American Booty or Shaving Ryan's Privates (those are actual titles, by the way). It did make me chuckle a few times, but not often enough to justify 90 minutes of my attention.

I didn't even mention the gay themes, which are a trademark for both Busch and director Robert Lee King. Two of the surfer guys engage in some deeply homoerotic play-fighting, which eventually leads to their sexual awakening. That part of the film actually showed promise, even if it was irrelevant to the rest of the story. Perhaps they should just stick to "straight" gay films.


For more information, go to the Internet Movie Database:
Psycho Beach Party (2000)

Here's some merchandise for sale at Amazon.com
Psycho Beach Party (2000) -- VHS
Psycho Beach Party (2000) -- DVD
Psycho Beach Party: Soundtrack -- Compact Disc


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Review © 2000 Matt Heffernan