26th Aug2019

Frightfest 2019: ‘The Banana Splits Movie’ Review

by Phil Wheat

Stars: Dani Kind, Finlay Wojtak-Hissong, Romeo Carere, Steve Lund, Maria Nash, Naledi Majola, Richard White, Sara Canning, Celina Martin, Kiroshan Naidoo | Written by Jed Elinoff, Scott Thomas | Directed by Danishka Esterhazy

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One banana, two banana, three banana, GORE! The cult-favorite animal rock-band from Hanna-Barbera’s 1968 The Banana Splits Adventure Hour variety program is back with a blood-spattered vengeance as a young boy named Harley and his family go to a taping of The Banana Splits TV show, which is supposed to be a fun-filled birthday for young Harley. But things take an unexpected turn… and the body count quickly rises.

It would seem Warner Bros., through production company Blue Ribbon Content, have taken a leaf out of Universal’s DTV playbook and commissioned a series of direct to market, low-to-mid budget movies that capitalise on existing franchises. Whereas Universal created a myriad of sequels to popular action franchises like Death Race and The Scorpion King (though it was an eclectic choice to recently make a sequel to The Benchwarmers… I don’t think anyone expected that!) Warner Bros. have taken a more interesting path – producing a long-long-awaited sequel/reboot of the Critters franchise and this, a new take on an old classic children’s TV series – definitely the last thing you’d ever expect to see turned into a horror movie (or franchise if THAT denouement is to be believed).

What works about The Banana Splits Movie is the juxtaposition between the bright, child-friendly sets and the violence that ensues on them. In fact that is probably the only thing that marks this movie out from the rest of the slasher crowd – for that’s what this is, a slasher movie in the skin of a kids TV show. A bloody mean-spirited TV show mind you! Yes, for that’s the other main takeaway from this film. The sheer mean-spiritedness of it all. From the titular Banana Splits to the people they attack – hell, even the kids have a mean streak, with no qualms or even the slightest second thought about attacking the Splits or their creator in order to survive.

And to be fair to The Banana Splits Movie, that mean-spirited edge is actually refreshing. There’s no moral dilemma here, no deeper meaning(s) – well not beyond perhaps that nostaligia (and living in the past) can bite you in the arse. This is horror for horrors sake, using the old TV characters as a hook to draw in an audience, then using tons of blood, guts and gore to keep them watching.

Yet whilst this is a fun spin on a familiar format, you can’t help but think that a film based on a wacky old kids TV show, turned into a horror movie, should be a bit more bizarre, a bit more crazy, a bit more… insane! For a gang of singing and dancing robots these killer splits are a little too sedate for me. I say sedate, but they still manage to carve up the cast of humans with aplomb – with some truly tremendous visual effects and gore that wouldn’t look out of place in the likes of Hostel and Saw. If you’re a gore fan there’s numerous highlights here!

Ultimately I didn’t dislike The Banana Splits Movie, in fact I really dug aspects of it but the finished product just left me feeling underwhelmed.

**½  2.5/5

The Banana Splits Movie screened at this years Arrow Video Frightfest on Monday August 26th. The film is also available now on DVD and Blu-ray.

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