“The Banana Splits Movie.” The title itself probably raises a few questioning eyebrows. I mean, it sounds like some sort of cutesie romantic comedy set in an ice cream shop, right? Well, don’t be confused. This movie most certainly isn’t cute, and a romantic comedy it is not. But before getting into that, I will enlighten the majority who have no idea who the Banana Splits are.
“The Banana Splits Adventure Hour” is a show only familiar to children of the age of psychedelia. Premiering in 1968 and continuing for two more years, this was a children’s variety show that specialized in silliness, laughs, and music. What started as a costumed version of “The Monkees” became a phenomenon that has kept a pulse in modern media for roughly 50 years through movies, television, references, and even toys.
The leading ensemble consisted of four costumed characters that each played an instrument. Fleegle, the beagle who played guitar and had a pronounced lisp, Bingo, the orange ape who played drums, Drooper, the lion who played the bass and spoke with a southern drawl, and Snorky, the elephant who played the keyboard and spoke only in honks. These four also sang as a quartet, which was very prominent in the music of the time (The Beatles, The Monkees, etc.). Now that everyone is caught up, let us dive right into the depraved, wickedly twisted, “Banana Splits Movie.”
The movie takes place in the modern-day, where “The Banana Splits” are still a popular children’s show that is widely obsessed over by the main character: Harley (Finlay Wojtak-Hissong). Harley’s mother, Beth, (Dani Kind) surprises him for his birthday with five tickets to go see the Banana Splits live at Taft Studios. Beth, Harley, his brother Austin, his friend Zoe, and his dad Mitch, all go to watch a live taping of the show. Upon arriving at the studio, we are introduced to the rest of the ensemble cast and crew of the show: Karl, the technician who fixes the Splits; Paige, the audience page; Rebecca, the producer; Andy, the vice-president of the studio; and Stevie, who is the least-liked, uncostumed member of the show. While in line, we also meet several other characters who unknowingly will become victims of the Splits’ reign of terror: Poppy and Thadd, an Instagram couple who are obsessed with the Banana Splits and Jonathan and Parker, who are a fame-seeking father and daughter.
Beth starts sensing something is off when Harley is almost run over by the Splits riding in their car. However, they continue to brush off the encounter and prepare for the show. After witnessing the close-call with the Banana buggy, Karl decides to give an update to the Splits while eerily saying “the show must go on.” While being updated, Drooper overhears Andy telling Rebecca that he is canceling the show and that today is the final taping. With the new update changing his programming, Drooper’s eyes start to glow red. After that, chaos ensues.
Now, even with a 90-minute run time, this movie does have a bit of a slow start for a horror movie. It’s first kill, for example, not occurring until 32 minutes in. However, once the kills start, they come at a relatively steady pace. Director Danishka Esterhazy offers excellent, stylized, gory action that any horror fan can enjoy. Minus the dull 32-minute start, this movie feels like a classic ‘70s grindhouse thriller with tons of excellent blood and practical effects. While there are some instances of CGI that sometimes can be jarring in how out of place it looks, the practical effects all but make up for it. Plus, with a majority of the victims being annoying side-plot characters, it is incredibly gratifying to see them get taken out by the Splits. This movie is definitely a must-see for anyone who loves eerie slasher horror, bloody violence, and of course the Banana Splits.
Another bonus for the movie is that it marks the first instance of an R-rated Hanna-Barbera-licensed property. Patrick Stumph, of Fall Out Boy fame, backs the violence with great music and even his own cover of the classic Banana Splits Tra-La-La song. Stumph’s music helps set the movie’s tone, creating tension while still keeping its audience on the edge of their seats.
Now, this is probably a movie not many are familiar with, what with it only being released digitally on Aug. 13 and then on DVD and Blu-ray on August 27. Plus, not only is it obscure, it features characters that almost no one born in this century would remotely be familiar with. However, I pushed through all that and watched it anyway, ultimately enjoying myself in the end. It’s cheesy, short, and a great way to spend a night of laughs with friends on a Friday night. I highly recommend it and think it is a highlight in a sea of modern horror that all seem to go for being spooky and mysterious as opposed to trying anything new. This movie pushes to be different, while still maintaining all the elements that draw people to horror movies in the first place.