If you’re old enough, you may remember a time when ‘Saturday morning cartoons’ was a thing. Before Netflix or The Disney Channel, kids woke up early on Saturday morning to get their cartoon fix. From the late 1960s to the early 1980s, Hanna-Barbera Productions dominated children’s programming. The Flinstones, The Jetsons, Yogi Bear, Scooby Doo, Where Are You – all Hanna-Barbera creations. Another one of their productions, The Banana Splits Adventure Hour, mixed live-action and animation. Four costumed animals hosted the show, intermittently playing bubble gum rock. Now SyFy, the same channel responsible for the Sharknado series, has turned The Banana Splits into a feature-length horror movie.
Eccentric Harley Williams’ favourite television show is The Banana Splits. For his birthday, his mother, Beth, surprises Harley with tickets to watch a live taping of the show at Taft Studios. Along with his negligent father, Mitch, older brother, Austin, and school friend Zoe, Harley gets one more birthday surprise – an invitation backstage after the show’s taping. But Harley’s birthday surprise quickly takes a turn for the worse. When their programming short-circuits, the anthropomorphic hosts – Fleegle, Bingo, Drooper, and Snorky – become homicidal killing machines.
The Banana Splits Movie Goes There
Why SyFy decided to resurrect The Banana Splits as a horror movie is an article to itself. Lucky for horror fans, the movie now exists. There’s something wildly fun and subversive about 1970’s children’s characters brutally murdering people. And that’s pretty much the movie’s one big hook. Simply put, The Banana Splits Movie is ‘Saturday Morning Cartoons’ meets slasher movie.
Though SyFy movies are generally cheap productions, the death scenes here are delightfully over-the-top.
As far as slasher movies go, The Banana Splits Movie is pretty standard stuff. To give audiences a body count, the cast is padded out with just enough disposable characters. Even less experienced horror fans shouldn’t have a hard time figuring out who will live and die. Of course, characters split up so our anthropomorphic furry friends can pick them off one by one. But where The Banana Splits Movie excels is the slashing. Though SyFy movies are generally cheap productions, the death scenes here are delightfully over-the-top. Bodies are severed, intestines spill out, limbs are ripped off – director Danishka Esterhazy pulls no punches. The fact that it’s children’s characters doing the killing just increases the movie’s fun factor.
The Banana Splits Movie Never Fully Embraces Its Own Silly Concept
Though its death scenes are as wild as one could hope, The Banana Splits Movie never finds its tonal footing. Not only is this a SyFy movie, it’s a movie with homicidal 1970’s psychedelic anthropomorphic children’s characters. Yet in spite of its silly concept, The Banana Splits Movie isn’t nearly as tongue-in-cheek as one would expect. In fact, one could argue that the movie takes itself too seriously at times. No one needed 30 minutes or so of set-up or character arcs in this kind of movie. Comparatively, the Sharknado series went full in with its dumb premise.
…The Banana Splits Movie isn’t nearly as tongue-in-cheek as one would expect.
Much of the problem can be attributed to a lukewarm screenplay. Writers Jed Elinoff and Scott Thomas miss several opportunities to turn the movie into a genuine cult classic. Not nearly enough of the movie’s jokes stick their landing. And even silly movies need some internal logical. While it’s a minor complaint for this kind of movie, the ‘Banana Splits’ are kind of strange even before there’s a programming malfunction. Moreover, the glitch doesn’t really explain why the killing starts. Nevertheless, if you’re watching the movie, you’re not likely to care.
Better Than Expected Cast Has Fun With The Premise
Not surprisingly, The Banana Splits Movie features a largely unknown cast. Canadian television fans may recognize mom, Beth, played by Dani Kind. Easily the best actor in the movie, Kind stars in the raucous comedy, Workin’ Moms. Aside from Kind, the rest of the cast more than delivers for a movie featuring killer animatronic animals. All the child actors are better than expected. Romeo Carere (Pyewacket), Naledi Majola, and Celina Martin seem to be having fun with their roles. For something that’s far removed from prestige horror, the performances are definitely a notch above expectations.
The Banana Splits Movie Mostly Works
Not quite the cult movie one might have expected, The Banana Splits Movie mostly works. On the one hand, you’re going to get what you likely wanted with this one. There’s just enough crazy, bloody death scenes for gorehounds. It’s a fun, subversive experience watching childhood characters go bad. Too bad the movie never fully embraces its own concept. Things never get as weird as they should given the premise. At times, the movie takes itself a little too seriously. But if you’re voluntarily watching The Banana Splits Movie, you’re likely to get what you came to see.