The premise of The Banana Splits Movie is absolutely brilliant. It’s like taking an iconic children’s show I used to watch such as Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood and turning it on its head. A horror based around a childhood favorite, The Banana Splits, could have been something special, something unique, and potentially even a cult classic in its own right. Unfortunately The Banana Splits Movie doesn’t pack enough of a punch to be celebrated or even despised for that matter.
The Banana Splits Movie begins with a bang, as it introduces us to the characters through the charming tv show that the film is inspired by and then sharply cuts to a jump scare. From then on, the direction sways between expectations and the unexpected. Danishka Esterhazy helms the project as the first big feature in her filmography, even though the film would end up just being aired on cable. If only The Banana Splits Movie was allowed to go wild, meaning that it was given a little more leeway with a bigger budget to dive deeper into the lore, and maybe had a director who understood how to utilize a budget to the last dollar bill (AKA the king of gore, Eli Roth). That's The Banana Splits film I want to see - imagine that, an Eli Roth take on this kind of a film… it would have been an absolute riot. There is reason to reflect on this because there's sincerely so many drawn out, lackluster moments that barely scratch the surface of what a movie about robots terrorizing little kids could have been.
The plot is ingenious and should receive little criticism for it's whacky horror storytelling - however it should for the pacing, as the story moves at times too quickly and at other times at a snail's pace. The story follows the robotic beings known as The Banana Splits as they learn their show has just been cancelled. With this information, their technology begins to glitch out - they become terminators in mascot costumes. That's genuinely the best way to interpret this film is The Terminator meets Five Nights At Freddy's (which if rumors are true makes sense for the latter.) It's a fun idea, but the rarity of seeing something overly brutal happen on screen leaves a longing for something much more R rated.
ACTING | CHARACTERS | DIALOGUE:
There are moments of campy behavior displayed on screen, and sure the camp levels rise as the film proceeds, but there's no need to start the film with the campiness it did. The acting becomes slightly more charming as the film goes on, but a majority of the actors involved, purposely or not, are not great actors. The only true standout beyond the voices and portrayers of the robotic The Banana Splits has to be the mom character played by Dani Kind, and she deserves more work like this film, just a slightly better produced one. The kids that join her in her survival are adequate actors but have absolutely zero memorable material, and the older brother happens to look, as well as sound like Alex Wolff in Hereditary - tell me you don't see it when you watch the film. The relationships between characters whether healthy or unhealthy seemed incredibly forced, making the character deaths throughout less impactful as you can't decide whether to root for an impending death or not.
VISUAL EFFECTS | MAKEUP | DESIGN:
MUSIC | SCORE | SOUND DESIGN:
For those of you who have never heard The Banana Splits theme song in your lifetime, I urge you to head over to YouTube this minute and take a listen. It's a theme that is childish, energetic, and all around cheerful - this film turns that into a horrifying piece of score. Not only will you be constantly glancing over your shoulder every time you hear The Banana Splits theme song, it will be stuck in your head for days to come, so get ready to be looking behind you a lot… a whole lot.
This is where a significant amount of the issues lie, with missed opportunities springing up all over this rather short runtime. There is blood, gore, and robots with axes, but it all feels like it was made for TV - something that it happened to air on, but I have a strong inkling that this film originally was meant for something other than cable, and that's where the problems lie. The camera likes to focus less on the action taking place and more on the aftermath, leaving the attack in question to be slightly hidden off camera - with a bad pun following a majority of the kills. The violence is there, but it isn't terrifying, it isn't funny, and it most of all isn't fun - it's just kind of there for the audience to question what just happened a second ago. Lastly I'd like to speak of the CGI, which was something that wasn't used a ton (which I can appreciate) but when it does arrive on screen is sloppy to just abysmal to watch on screen.
It took me a while to figure out what The Banana Splits Movie reminds me of, and then it finally came to me: it's as if the studio THE ASYLUM bought the rights to a rival script for a 'Five Nights at Freddy's' movie, but when that film never became a reality, The Banana Splits Movie was born. None of that is true, but it seems as though it should be. What should have been a brutally enjoyable time with an insane premise based on an old children's show wound up being a waste of everyone's time, with hardly anything redeemable to show for it beyond the 'already stuck in your head' theme song.