When the trailer for the horror movie version of The Banana Splits dropped earlier in 2019, it left us with a morbid sense of wonder. The film came across like the blackest of black comedies, as Chuck E. Cheese-like animatronics slashed people apart with brutality. Let’s break it down and see if all the mystery and hype came across in the final product.
The Banana Splits is directed by Danishka Esterhazy (Level 16 2018) and co-written by Jed Elinoff (R.L. Stine’s The Haunting Hour TV series) and Scott Thomas (The Mistle-Tones 2012) and is based on the characters from the 1968 children’s comedy of the same name, a TV series that ran for two seasons. It was a lighthearted kids’ show, so these filmmakers decided to turn up the volume and morph this wholesome family entertainment into a violent party of bloodthirsty monsters.
The story is simple but genius. The longtime TV series, The Banana Splits, is being cancelled by the network, but the Splits aren’t happy with that. After a programming malfunction, they begin a killing spree to keep “entertaining” kids forever. When massive fan Harley (Finlay Wojtak-Hissong: The Kindness of Strangers 2019) gets to go to a studio taping of the show for his birthday, his family is caught in the middle of the bloodbath.
The acting here is pretty solid down the line. Finlay Wojtak-Hissong plays Harley, an awkward loner child who’s holding onto his youth for as long as possible. His friend, Zoe (Maria Nash: Little Lights 2018), steals the show with great dialogue and fun facials. Every character is given something fun to do, and even the audience (whose principal purpose is slaughter fodder), all have layers and backstories. Harley’s stepfather, Mitch (Bitten TV series), is too focused on his business affairs, and a nearby couple are using the Banana Splits as a way to get hits on their social media vlogs. All of the characters are written wonderfully, currently, and realistically.
Watch The Banana Splits right here!
The sets are extremely colorful. It feels like we’re trapped in an authentic TV studio. The gore, when it’s shown, is very effective. For a film that could’ve easily been surrounded in schlock and irreverence, the filmmaking team found a way to take the antagonists seriously without losing any of the fun. This film has often been called a Five Nights at Freddy’s (read our VR update here) rip-off, but I feel it deserves more credit than that. They took a silly ’60s children’s hit and updated it to maximize its 2019 potential with a flowing script and well-directed goals. Sure, there are some weird leaps in logic and some silly character choices that may keep it out of some top ten horror lists this year, but if you can suspend disbelief for long enough, you’ll be sitting in the stands begging for The Banana Splits sequel.