Main cast: Dani Kind (Beth Williams), Steve Lund (Mitch Williams), Finlay Wojtak-Hissong (Harley Williams), Romeo Carere (Austin Williams), Sara Canning (Rebecca), Naledi Majola (Paige), Maria Nash (Zoe), Kiroshan Naidoo (Thadd), Celina Martin (Poppy Glarady), Lionel Newton (Karl), Richard White (Stevie), Lia Sachs (Parker), Keeno Lee Hector (Jonathan), Daniel Fox (Andy), Vash Singh (Doug), and Nicky Rebelo (Sal)
Director: Danishka Esterhazy
The Banana Splits was an actual TV show back in the late 1960s, meant for kids, but let me tell you, The Banana Splits Movie, which features the same characters from that other show, is definitely not for kids. See that cat thing, Bingo, in the movie poster wielding an ax? Well, this movie is about what happens when the four animal characters of the show become homicidal maniacs and start killing people.
Maybe one can’t blame them. In this movie, Bingo and his friends Smoky, Fleegle, and Drooper are actually animatronics – robots, basically, programmed to dance, act, and even drive around the studio grounds to entertain visitors to TAFT Studio. They soon get wind of the fact that the mean new studio head Andy is canceling the show, and decide to get rid of the adults among the audience during the taping of that day, and hold the kids captive so that they can continue the show on their own.
Among the people trapped in the studio that day are the Williams. Harley is a kid who adores the show despite his age; the show doesn’t specifically state that he may be slow in the head, but I do wonder about a kid his age who still acts as if the characters of the show are real and can communicate with him. His stepbrother Austin rolls up his eyes most of the time because he’s nineteen and he’s way too old to be babysitting his brother, but he does care for that boy. Harley’s father (and Austin’s stepfather) Mitch is a jerk who shows little care and affection even to his own son, while Beth is the protective mother who just wants a happy home for her kids. It is Harley’s birthday so Dani has brought the family tickets to attend a live taping of The Banana Splits, so here they are, with poor Zoe, Harley’s classmate who reluctantly tags along because her mother made her, heh. Can they outwit the murderous animatronics?
Also among the potential victims are Paige the page (she knows, she knows), the show producer Rebecca, the only human cast of the show Steve who hates his life because he is fifth billing after four bloody robots, Thadd and Poppy who are Instagram folks are hoping to secretly tape their live taping experience for their audience, startlet-in-training Parker, and her ambitious stage father Jonathan who brings his daughter here solely for a chance to get her to audition before a producer.
The first third or so of the movie is a bit slow, as I am treated to some played out family drama, annoying child actor shenanigans, and what seems like a thinly veiled advertisement for a studio tour. Once the Banana Splits get nasty, however, things become far more interesting. Did I mention that this movie is not for kids? This is because the death scenes are gory – really, really gory – and the use of practical effects instead of fake-looking CGI only makes things more intense. Mind you, the gore is more of an exaggerated, cartoon-like sort (think Hatchet rather than, say, early Friday the 13th movies), but we are talking about disembowelment, a man sawed alive into half, a man’s limbs being ripped apart while he is screaming in pain, and so on. Considering how cute the animatronics are, the whole juxtaposition of cuteness and gore is simply adorable, and the constant playing of the kiddie theme song only add to the fun sense of wrongness permeating this movie.
The characters and the story by themselves are nothing to shout about. If anything, they waste too much time on characters such as Parker and her father that go nowhere and cause this movie to seem bloated with too many unnecessary side cast. Most of these characters are either annoying or too one note for me to care. Also, there are some really annoying kid actors here, shudder. On the other hand, Dani Kind is great as the protective mother who develops a kick-ass sensibility when her kids are in danger.
It is the novelty of seeing what seems like an allegory for homicidal furries gone wrong is enjoyable enough to carry this film to the finish line. The murderous furry creatures are just way too cute. Seriously, them killing people is such a joy to behold, and yes, if I hadn’t seen this movie, I wouldn’t believe I would ever type such a thing. I’m not joking though. The Banana Splits Movie may not be a great horror film by any stretch of the imagination, but it delivers gore, inventive death scenes, and dark humor well enough to make this an okay option for one’s horror movie time.