August 19, 2019
Street Date 8/27/19;
$19.98 DVD, $24.98 Blu-ray;
Rated ‘R’ for horror violence and gore.
Stars Dani Kind, Finlay Wojtak-Hissong, Romeo Carere, Steve Lund, Sara Canning, Eric Bauza.
The line between comedy and horror is often a fine one, as attempting to build a mood of genuine fright can often be undone with over-the-top depictions of gore. On the other hand, a copious amount of blood and guts splattering across the screen can even be a lot of fun when not meant to be taken seriously.
So then, what to make of The Banana Splits Movie, a horror-infused update of the infamous “The Banana Splits Adventure Hour,” the psychedelic kids show of the 1960s featuring a bizarre band of four overgrown animal puppets performing a variety of cheesy gags that would leave viewers asking if the creators or the intended audience are supposed to be more high.
The new movie is based on the premise that the costumes are too creepy to really work as children’s characters, and are more akin to theme park mascots that could be hiding any number of unsavory sorts while unsuspecting parents push kids in front of them for photo ops.
In a world where the Banana Splits show is still on the air after 50 years, the characters are now played by sophisticated robots, whose creator programs them with a prime directive that “the show must go on.”
One of their biggest fans is a kid named Harley (Finlay Wojtak-Hissong), whose family takes him to a taping of the show on his birthday. However, on this day, the new network head of programming decides to visit, and because every adult considers the show immensely stupid, he cancels it.
This news doesn’t go over too well with the Splits robots, who start murdering every adult in the studio in their effort to keep the show going for the kids.
The idea of the robots turning on their human masters was inspired by Westworld, with the idea of the cute mascot characters turning on their fans was the plot of the memorable “Itchy and Scratchy Land” episode of “The Simpsons.”
It’s a bonkers setup that should yield a ton of wacky horror scenarios, but instead of playing up the juxtaposition of a kids show turning into a splatterfest, the film is more interested in dialing up the dark-and-creepy factor.
The film chugs along at a leisurely pace as it isolates a handful of characters to follow through eerily dark soundstages while being stalked by the Splits. Some of their kills are inventive and rife with gooey makeup effects, but they take so long to develop and pay off that there’s little joy in beholding the audacity of the premise.
Imagine instead playing up the acid trip nature of the show, and keeping the tone light and cheery as the robots slaughter everyone as they’re running for their lives? Then maybe once the survivors start to hide, the Splits would hunt them down for some of the game-like kill scenarios.
Still, the curiosity factor over the premise of a Banana Splits murderfest (piqued, no doubt, by the Splits theme song used during the memorable Hit Girl intro scene in Kick-Ass) should draw in some eyeballs.
The film is a little more clever in its spoofing of studio power politics and the often absurd whims of big-wig executives who ascend to their lofty positions without the faintest whiff of merit or creative talent.
Bonus materials on the Blu-ray are rather sparse, with two behind-the-scenes featurettes that run about 15 minutes.
The first, running eight-and-a-half minutes, is a pretty standard talking-heads piece with the filmmakers and cast discussing the tone of the film and why they wanted to target the Banana Splits as the kiddie characters most likely to turn violent.
Then there’s the six-and-a-half-minute companion video in which they discuss some of the various murder scenes created for the film.
Finally, there’s a two-minute montage of fake “Breaking News” videos of reports of the slaughter at the Splits studio.
One of the featurettes also touts the old “Banana Splits” show being available on DVD, but maybe a few episodes could have been included with the movie’s Blu-ray just to really give viewers some context about where the movie was coming from.