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DIRECTOR: Danishka Esterhazy RELEASE DATE: August 13, 2019 RATING (US): R
CAST: Dani Kind, Finlay Wojtak-Hissong et al.
// review by EscapeRouteBritish

Banana Split In Half.

In the magical fictional era of the late 1960s, there existed a television program called The Banana Splits Adventure Hour. It was a variety show featuring four mascots dressed up in large animal costumes, and they were in a band together. Fleegle, Bingo, Drooper, and Snorky. The show was a send-up of the then-popular Monkees, and much like the Monkees, the Banana Splits didn't even play their own instruments. But the Monkees weren't about the music, Marge, and neither was the Banana Splits. After a failed revival in the late 2000s, the Banana Splits remained a dormant franchise until the release of The Banana Splits Movie in 2019.

Hanna-Barbera has never been one to shy away from more creative renditions of their famous properties. A television series with adult-oriented humour such as Harvey Birdman Attorney At Law can co-exist with children's programming such as What's New Scooby-Doo! and nobody bats an eyelid. This is the same Hanna-Barbera that rebooted their comic book universe as Hanna-Barbera Beyond!, featuring post-apocalypse Scooby-Doo and a Mad Max inspired take on Wacky Races. When I picked up the Banana Splits Movie Blu-ray in the store, I was confused for all of about three seconds, until I simply chuckled and placed it in my basket. Because it should come as no surprise that Hanna-Barbera gave Warner Bros. free rein to create a violent horror movie based around and featuring their characters. Let's be fair, how else would you go about adapting The Banana Splits into a movie?

I've just taken a look at the audience scores for this film while writing this review, and I simply don't understand them. Not only was the film rated poorly when shown at Comic-Con, the film has also faced a great deal of backlash from fans of the Banana Splits. What, you all a bunch of old prudes? I grew up aware and familiar with the Banana Splits characters and yet I found the movie hilarious from start to finish. I'd go as far as to say that the 39% audience rating on Rotten Tomatoes, at the time of writing this review, is simply wrong. Buckle up and step into this ridiculous theme park ride of a film and I'll explain why I feel this to the best of my ability.

The Banana Splits Movie takes itself seriously for around the first third of the movie, basically until the murders start happening. It begins with a struggling family unit that is falling apart at the seams. The mother, Beth, just wants her sons, Harley and Austin, to have a good life free of trouble. The step-father, Mitch, is always on his phone and can't stay away from "work" (and by work, I mean sexting his secretary). This rickety family unit falls apart at a special birthday celebration for Harley, as they go to see an episode of The Banana Splits Adventure Hour being recorded live at TAFT Studios. During the filming, vice president of network programming, Andy, is promoted and decides that The Banana Splits aren't representative of what he wants on his network, so he decides to axe the show.

In this film, the eponymous Splits are animatronics, and while undergoing repairs, Drooper ends up learning about the show's cancellation. Because their programming insists that "the show must go on", the robot Splits will find any means to keep their show going despite its cancellation. The parents who have come to watch the show are slaughtered by the Splits, and their children are tied up and forced to watch a gruesome version of the Adventure Hour show with live murders. The film is insanely gratuitous with its violence and is fully aware of what kind of film it is - absolute schlock. As someone who finds this kind of movie hilarious to begin with, the added absurdity of 1960s children's TV mascots doing the killing elevates this film to a somewhat higher plane than it probably deserves.

As all the carnage is going down, the family completely falls apart and some people "literally" fall apart. Certain characters true colours start to show, and they each have fitting deaths lined up to satiate your desire for their punishment. As is the case in the slasher genre, everyone who deserves to die will die and will die poetically.


I'd split if they came into my shop.

The film score was astonishing and came courtesy of Fall Out Boy's Patrick Stump. This clashing industrial soundtrack is different to what anybody would expect from the screeching pop-punk prince of the late 2000s, yet fits the film so perfectly you barely even notice its there. Married with this score is some genuinely good child acting that does not take you out of the film, with the adults also doing a reasonable job of maintaining straight-faced seriousness amidst the lunacy unfolding around them. All of the major plot points and character development one expects from a slasher is perfectly emulated and therefore results in a movie I would genuinely consider top quality satire.

At no point does anything in The Banana Splits Movie come across as amateur. All of the effects appeared to be practical, with torn mascot costumes, internal organs, and excessive blood. Only one of the film's murders seemed outlandish and completely unbelievable but said character turns up later in a half-dead state and is finished off in a much more gruesome and satisfying way. The humour is as sharp as Bongo's axe itself, with one scene I particularly enjoyed involving two injured characters being forced to complete one of the obstacle courses - one with extreme burns on their face, the other with a broken hand - slipping and sliding on blood-red ooze while trying to make their way through the course, landing on their injuries over and over.

I haven't laughed like this at a movie in ages. This has all the makings of a cult classic, and while underappreciated now it will no doubt be talked about many years on. When you pick up a movie called The Banana Splits Movie, listed as a horror with an adult certification, this movie is exactly what you'd expect. It hits every beat and achieves everything it sets out to. It's the perfect parody of the slasher horror genre with the added lunacy of mascot costume murderers with goofy cartoon voices provided by the legendary Eric Bauza.

There are some theories circulating online that this movie uses the original script for the Warner Bros "Five Nights At Freddy's" film as a base, and I can certainly see the similarities and nods to the franchise. While it is certainly possible that is the case, the comedy spin and Banana Splits characters make the film wholly unique.

Those who shudder at the idea of a violent Banana Splits movie are more than welcome to track down a copy of their 1972 film, The Banana Splits in Hocus Pocus Park, if they're just too fragile to stomach the egregrious blood and gore. I, however, laughed like a drain throughout and that's a pretty impressive result considering I can be quite the stonefaced viewer.

If the idea of a children's show adapted into a horror film makes you smirk, you will absolutely love this, there's no doubt in my mind about that. There is sequel bait in the last few seconds, but I'd prefer if this stayed a one time deal. I feel that any kind of sequel would be a cinematic disaster, this film is very much a one and done kind of deal. This film is for fans of the works of Adult Swim and Fatal Farm, and tone-deaf gratuitous slasher movies.


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