The Banana Splits Movie (2019)
I was very surprised when I first saw a trailer for The Banana Splits Movie. It is unusual for a big studio such as Warner Bros. to allow one of its intellectual properties to be “repurposed” in this way. However, a little research online has yielded a few interviews in trade magazines where the inference is that this movie is a test. Naturally the studio wouldn’t take such a risk with a more popular franchise like The Flintstones or Scooby Doo, so The Banana Splits were chosen instead to see if they could successfully crossover into another genre. And the horror genre lends itself to low budget productions that can quickly be made, marketed and yield a satisfactory return on investment. It will be interesting to see if this gamble pays off and whether we’ll see a sequel or another beloved children’s show turned into a blood-soaked comedy horror.
The Banana Splits Movie starts in a fairly innocuous fashion with an episode of The Banana Splits Show (which has been running in this movie universe since 1968) being recorded at the Taft Studios. But due to a change in programming policy the production is to be closed. Furthermore, the Banana Splits (who are robots for “some particular reason”) seem to be having problems with their latest software upgrade. Meanwhile young Harley Williams (Finlay Wojtak-Hissong) is visiting the studio with his Mother Beth (Dani Kind), older Brother Austin (Romeo Carare) and Stepfather Mitch (Steve Lund) to watch a live recording. It’s Harley’s birthday and he is a big fan of the show, although his parents worry that he’s a little old for such things. Since Harley’s Father died, he’s become very insular and Beth struggles to find one of his school friends to join his birthday celebrations. Zoe (Maria Nash) reluctantly comes along, although she finds the show somewhat “lame”. However, the Banana Splits have no intention of being cancelled and start reaping bloody revenge against both studio staff and the audience. After all, the show must go on. Will the Williams family survive?
The horror genre often lends itself to high-concept film making and The Banana Splits Movie falls clearly into this category. It has all the key ingredients required for such a movie, with its low budget, tongue in cheek approach and liberal quantities of gore. But this film has some of the flaws that are also inherent with these sorts of productions. The initial thirty minutes leading up to the first murder drag a little. The cast try hard and there is a little more backstory to the characters than you expect with such films, but performances are variable. Plus the screenplay by Jed Elinoff and Scott Thomas, dithers a little over what exactly to do with Fleagle, Bingo, Drooper and Snorky. There is no attempt to explain why they’ve gone “bad”, not that it is essential to the narrative. Horror movies have their own fluid, internal logic and audiences tend to indulge such things. There are also some editorial issues which leave some minor gaps in the narrative. A character loses some fingers off camera. During the end credits we see them lying on the floor. Has a greater significance been edited out?
If you adjust your expectations accordingly and keep in mind the realities of low budget horror movies, The Banana Splits Movie can be an amusing 90 minutes. The cast are sincere and there is an inherently creepy quality to the idea of something as benign as The Banana Splits behaving psychotically. Gore fans will not be disappointed as there are several quite detailed and grisly kills. If only the screenplay had focused more upon the interaction between Fleagle, Bingo, Drooper and Snorky. Naturally there are some obvious homages to The Terminator franchise and gamers will see clear parallels with Five Nights at Freddy’s. As for cries of “you’ve ruined my childhood” from the usual suspects, these can be dismissed as hyperbole from people who patently aren’t familiar with the writings of Marcus Aurelius. The Banana Splits Movie ends with plenty of scope for a follow up. It just remains to be seen whether this movie finds an audience who take it in the spirit it is intended.
NB Snorky is my favourite.