Review: Another Reimagined Hanna Barbera Property, THE BANANA SPLITS MOVIE is 90's Era Horror Camp
It’s a shame that we still don’t have a Five Night at Freddy’s film. The survival horror game was a surprise hit, taking the terrifying premise of a Chuck E. Cheese inspired children’s playhouse where the animatronics come to life at night, and they’re not exactly friendly. It’s been announced numerous times to no fruition but Warner Brothers and Blue Ribbon Content have decided to fill that void with an old Hanna Barbera property, The Banana Splits.
Now people have been reinventing Hanna Barbera properties for a while now. Ted Turner bought most of the cartoon properties up and Adult Swim made great use of them with programs such as Sealab 2021, Space Ghost: Coast to Coast and Harvey Birdman: Attorney at Law. More recently, DC Comics did some inventive team-ups and reimagining, with titles such as Snagglepuss and Future Quest. The Banana Splits are different, however, because the show was live action. Designed by the infamous Marty and Sid Krofft, the creators of infamous shows such as H.R. Pufnstuf and Land of the Lost, The Banana Splits was a season long variety show (a la Donny and Marie) but instead of real people, our leads were four giant, furry animals. Fleegle, Bingo, Drooper and Snorky were the Banana Splits band and now they’re here to murder parents and kidnap children.
No, for real. That’s the plot of The Banana Splits Movie.
Harley is a big fan of the Banana Splits. When his family gets him tickets for his birthday, his only friend is busy so his mother instead invites acquaintance Zoe. Alongside his doting mother, cheating father and supportive older brother, the five head to Taft Studios for a live recording of The Banana Splits. Unbeknownst to them, the new vice president of programming has pulled the plug on the variety show and a glitch in the animatronics programming starts a mass murder spree to solidify that “the show must go on.”
It’s absurd. I know. Nothing about this plot is realistic or logical, but that’s fine. We aren’t expecting that. I mean, let’s face it, nothing about the central plot of Child’s Play (original or reboot) screams “reality” but we can still have fun with it. Listen, I’m not saying that The Banana Splits Movie is Child’s Play, it’s a far cry from it. But with a similar motif, The Banana Splits Movie feels like a nineties era knock off of Child’s Play that would have found a nice home on the shelves of the video stores of yesteryear.
So let me repeat: who cares about the plot. Basically we’re introduced to a ton of terrible people in line outside of Taft Studios who we all know are body count fodder to pad out the run time of the film. We meet the Banana Splits, who are rightfully creepy as hell. With static facial features, from wagging tongues to eschewed sunglasses, costume designer Danielle Knox nailed it when redesigning the kids show characters to ride that line between endearing and creepy. Once the killing starts happening, it’s goofy, fun as hell and sometimes shocking with the viciousness. Using set pieces and props from the show, the animals go on a mass murder spree, gleefully knocking off a dozen characters who we were built to hate. In particular, a magic trick gone wrong and homemade flamethrower incident really end up becoming the standout kills.
Director Danishka Esterhazy, who also helmed the low budget but critically acclaimed Level 16, knows exactly what sh is doing here. The task is silly but she has fun with it. She never takes herself too seriously, performing a mad dash to the end of the 86 minutes, filling it with clever horror beats and whacky gore.
The acting drags the movie down, lines often delivered flat and one note. It doesn’t really matter too much because if you’re expecting a great plot and performances from The Banana Splits Movie, well, you’re delusional. You’ll see every story beat coming from a mile away but you won’t be in it for an arc, you’re here to see giant stuffed animals rip a man’s arms and legs off while attached to a giant spinning wheel and that’s exactly what you’re going to get. Plus, the movie is actually catchy as hell, all written and played by Fall Out Boy’s Patrick Stump, I found myself humming “tra la la” at work the next day.
Yes, it’s silly. Yes, the acting is bad. However, in an era of some of the best, most dread inducing horror we have ever had, sometimes it’s next to throw ourselves back to a 90’s horror camp era and just enjoy the kills.